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West Hall on budget and on schedule

By Amelia Foley

The new residence hall, West Hall, is scheduled to be completed and open for occupancy by fall 2016.

Administration expect the cost will not exceed the $44 million budget.

Executive Vice President Dale Hamel said the West Hall dorm is being paid for by the rent of resident students and that it “is all revenue bond financing, so just like all the residence halls, the residence halls basically have to stand on their own. The revenue that we take in through rent is needed to cover both operations and department service.”

He added this is possible because the University has consistently maintained a 100 percent occupancy over the past few years.

Hamel said, “The building authority is pretty good about their projects in terms of a lot of upfront planning, studying and design, so when we get into actual construction their projects are typically on budget and on time.”

He added, “It has been a very good construction season because of the weather ... There haven’t been any issues with delays.”

The campus will gain 75 beds with the completion of West Hall, which will have 316 beds. West Hall will be replacing O’Connor Hall, which has 241 beds, and is scheduled to be turned into offices and classrooms by fall 2016, according to Hamel.

Freshman Kelechi Obika is a current O’Connor resident but said he isn’t upset it’ll be gone next year. “I like it, but I wouldn’t live in it two years in a row.”

Hamel said that even with the new beds available, the common rooms in Towers will still be used as temporary housing for students.

The new dorm will not have air conditioning because “it’s a lot of money that directly goes toward student rent,” said Hamel. “On average, we get about seven days a year that are above 80 degrees while we are in session.”

Hamel said there won’t be any additional food outlets in the dorm because “that’s an additional cost that would be reflected in rent.”

Residency will be offered to all students, including incoming freshmen. Hamel said the choice for more expensive rooms was “driven by demand.

“What we’re seeing from focus groups we went out and did with students is there was an interest in this type of smaller shared restrooms at a slightly higher cost than the floor-bathroom configuration,” said Hamel.

Freshman Katie Kelly said, “I would much prefer the conjoined bathrooms. I was going to pay to live in North, but having that other option would be great.”

Glenn Cochran, associate dean of students and director of residence life and student conduct, said West Hall has “an awesome design.”

The main entry level will be the second floor, said Cochran, and will have mailboxes, a security desk, a kitchen area and a “living room with a fireplace and a lot of comfortable seating areas.”

The majority of the rooms in West Hall will be conjoined doubles, which will share a common bathroom, along with a few singles and “different configurations of doubles,” said Hamel.

The rooms will cost the same as conjoined doubles in North Hall, which cost $4,140, according to The singles will cost about $375 more a year than a standard double, said Hamel. There will be no suites like the ones in Linsley or North halls.

Cochran said the conjoined rooms have “a privacy benefit,” and are “double secured.” Every pair of rooms will have a private conjoined bathroom.

“You have a buffer from the everyday footsteps. People talking softly, and other things you hear from the hall, will be lessened by having the buffer zone,” said Cochran.

Freshman Ricardo Damas said, “I’m excited to see what it’ll look like inside.”

Common rooms will replicate the ones in North Hall, said Hamel. “We were fortunate enough to have North Hall in existence for a few years to figure out what worked nicely and things that we would have done differently, and I think the lounges at those knuckle areas work out well.”

The ground level will be equipped with “a nice big game room area, laundry, and also a program space,” said Cochran. The program room will be similar to the alumni room, and will have stacked seating so it can be set up theater style, or moved around for floor activities to be held.

The top floor, said Cochran, “will be a big lounge with lots of glass looking out toward the hills past Route 9, which is going to be an awesome space, and can be used as a movie theater room.”

Sophomore Kara Abate said, “It’ll be nice to have a new dorm on campus.”

Sophomore Margaret Nee said, “I don’t want to live there because it’s on that giant hill. I always walk down there and I hate walking back up.”

Hamel said, “We’re on a hill which makes making this place accessible pretty difficult.” The architects planned out stairs that go underneath the building to get to the Maynard parking lot. The stairs will provide access two stories up from the parking lot. There will also be an external elevator for students to use.

At the top of the stairs, there will be “a number of walkways that meet ADA requirements that then will get students up to the Ecumenical Center,” said Hamel.

Junior Kaitlyn Gordon said, “I think it’s clutch if you’re parked in the new Salem End lot.”

The new dorm also reduced parking in the Maynard lot, but Hamel said the addition of the Salem End Road lot “more than made up for the lost spaces that were taken by the footprint of the new dorm.”

West Hall is positioned in front of the Helen Heineman Ecumenical Center, which was built in 1871.

Hamel said, “The shape of the dorm, in many ways, took into account the Ecumenical Center to be able to retain its views. There was a lot of discussion in terms of how this building was configured.”

Junior Andy Dabney said, “It doesn’t bother me, frankly,” referring to the placement of the new dorm.

Warren Fairbanks, associate vice president of facilities and capital planning, said the Ecumenical Center is protected by the National Historic Registry.

Cochran said, “There were big areas where they did soil nailing. They put big pieces of steel bars that push down to create a grid that helps hold all the earth in place to prevent washing out and things like that.”

Senior Colleen Schroth said, “I think the placement of the new dorm makes sense. They utilized the space they had in a smart way.”

Junior Samantha Crosby said, “I think it’s good to have a new dorm and to see the campus growing.”


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