Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Dorm on Hawk Hill

Six-story freshman hall to be built on Gest Lawn
By Luigi Condina '12

Towards the end of spring 2012, Saint Joseph’s University will see the addition of the largest student dormitory on campus.

The process of acquiring the necessary permits for construction is currently underway, and building is set to begin in April of 2011. The “L” shaped building will stand two and a half stories above Sourin Hall. The two wings will cover approximately half of Gest lawn from the sides facing Cardinal Avenue and lining Sourin parking lot, leaving 48,180 sq. ft. of green space.

“The grade from City Avenue, down towards Sourin gradually descends towards Sourin, so closer to City Avenue it would be five and a half stories, at Sourin it would be six [stories],” said Kevin Robinson, vice president of administrative services, who is part of the developmental group spearheading the early stages of the project.

The anticipated cost of the finalized project after architectural and construction fees is in the range of $35 million, according to Cary Anderson, Ed.D., vice president for student life, who is currently working with Robinson to finalize the construction plans. While the completed dorm will add 400 new beds to freshman housing options, Anderson said that the majority of the spaces will be used to relieve congestion in the other campus dormitories.

As called for in the Bridge Plan, underclassmen admissions will see an increase of 50 additional students each year for the next four consecutive years, resulting in the swelling of the undergraduate population by approximately 200 students.

“Our numbers dictate, based on the number of beds we have for first year students (about 1150), if you’re starting to bring in a class of 1200 or 1250 then you just don’t have the space…and so we wanted to be able to accommodate all of that,” said Anderson. “We want them as close to campus as possible, that’s a piece of it. First year students in apartment style living doesn’t educationally work as well as the more traditional hall, and so we want to have that experience to get to know more people before they get into a smaller group of friends.”

According to Anderson, the new student spaces will allow for the accommodation of all first year students without the need for triples. In addition, the freeing of spaces in campus houses will create more room for upperclassmen living on campus.

Anderson said that various other campus sites were considered before settling on Gest Lawn, but that zoning ordinances that restrict construction of student dormitories on Maguire Campus left options limited. Conversations about knocking down Sourin Hall to build a larger dorm on the site were dismissed in favor of the current construction plans in order to maximize the amount of student spaces on campus, according to Anderson.

“When you knock down Sourin, you’ve lost all of those beds and you’d have a smaller net gain,” said Anderson. “We needed to do more than that, and so we went around looking at various spaces on campus because with a first year building you want to be as close as possible. Going off campus raises the cost because you are paying for land acquisition.”

Robinson announced to the University Student Senate (U.S.S.) at a March 15 meeting that as part of an effort to keep the housing options equitable, renovations to the Sourin and Lafarge residences are set to take place for the coming academic year.

“Air condition units are going to be installed in the Sourin dorm, and LaFarge is going to get all new windows,” said Robinson at the U.S.S. meeting.

Robinson and a developmental group proposed the creation of a new committee to gather student input on the construction plans to the U.S.S. Although many of the larger construction issues have been decided by the administration, Anderson said that there are still areas for discussion and student input. The information accrued by the Senate’s committee will be presented to the development group for evaluation.

“What we’re really looking for is the final use of the study spaces and lounge spaces, the finishing, some more conversations about entrances and the use of the green space, general pieces,” said Anderson. “The shell and the main concept is done, but there are some other things that we can [do] through…the group as kind of an advisory on what makes sense. Now again we want to work within our time frame and our budget. It’s not just what makes sense at this exact moment, it’s what makes sense in the future as well.”

An additional gated entrance on the corner of City and Cardinal Avenues will provide main access to the building and line up with the new pedestrian entranceway that is currently under construction directly across the street on Maguire Campus.

According to Robinson, construction workers will begin to take soil samples on the construction site in the near future. After a large granite deposit delayed construction on the Campion addition last year, Robinson said that tests would be conducted to determine the soil’s content before breaking ground on the new project next spring.

Anderson said that discussions with Campus Apartments, the development company overseeing construction plans, considered environmentally friendly options concerning the features of the new residence. Although no additional campus green space will be created as a result of the construction, Anderson pointed to the conversion of a portion of the Science Center parking lot into Neumann Lawn as an attempt to keep an appropriate proportion of porous land on campus.

“That was part of the Neumann Lawn piece when that happened. When we can try to add green space…and that’s why it was part of the design when we talked to the architects that was one of the first things we tried to do is preserve as much green space as possible,” Anderson said.

Together with the U.S.S., the development group is considering possibilities that could fit the new residence with motion censored lighting already available in some residence hall bathrooms.
“The development company is looking at the criteria for our lead certification. It’s our goal to make [the building] as environmentally friendly as possible, and whether it would become lead certified or not is still a question because there are certain things that are associated with that… looking at the overall budget,” Anderson said.

The process of communicating the university’s intentions to the rest of the surrounding community is also underway, according to Anderson.

“That’s happening as we speak; that’s a parallel process in all of this, starting with elected officials and kind of moving from there,” he said. “The one thing about this particular space is that there are no residents’ houses right up against this space.”

1 comment:

  1. bad idea, Gest was the only green space left on campus. With the ongoing EA fiasco, the 80% admissions rate and our basketball meltdown, what has gone well at SJU recently? hard to tell