As they returned to campus this term, students were greeted with not just bigger snowdrifts than they remembered, but also bigger structures on the construction site of Carleton’s newest dorms, Cassat and Memorial Halls.
The new dormitories have been under constant construction and are slated to open on schedule this coming fall. Currently, workers are in the process of erecting the brick façade and completing interior structural work. By February, both buildings should be completely enclosed.
“We’re a little bit behind right now because of some cold weather in December,” explained Director of Residential Life Steve Wisener, but he added, “We’re 100% confident they’ll make it.” The current goal is to receive an occupancy permit by July 31 in order to begin moving in furniture to welcome the new residents.
Memorial Hall will house 98 students, all upperclassmen, and Cassat Hall will house 138 students from all four years. The rooms in Cassat will all be singles and doubles, while those in Memorial will also include triples, quads, and quints. As a comparison to existing dorms, Cassat is expected to have a composition similar to Burton Hall, while Memorial will more closely resemble Severance Hall.
“We looked around campus and saw what we liked and didn’t like,” Wisener said, explaining the features of the new dorms. The result is that Cassat Hall contains a number of public spaces designed to make the floor a social environment, including a main lounge and study lounge on every floor, as well as a large main lounge with a kitchen, a basement full of study rooms, including two presentation practice rooms, and a large game room.
Rooms are laid out in clusters rather than straight along a hallway, a decision that reflects both the space and a desire to make the layout more socially inviting.
“How do you have 50 people on a floor and provide opportunities for small pods to connect?” Wisener mused. Encouraging a social community has been an emphasis. “We hope people on that side of campus will want to come hang out at the new dorms,” he added.
The dorms were specifically designed not to completely wall off the quad they create in order to preserve the sight of Watson as part of campus. Walkways and entrances were designed with special attention towards encouraging traffic with Watson and Evans Halls. Memorial and Cassat Halls will also have their own special community connection – a tunnel linking their basements.
“This can be my legacy here – that I brought back a tunnel for student use,” joked College Vice President Fred Rogers. Much of the layout of the new dorms was designed to entice students, particularly upperclassmen, who are fairly scarce on the East side of campus.
“We’re trying to draw upperclassmen with generous singles,” said Charlotte Turovsky, ’11, the student representative on the planning committee. Wisener also pointed out that the quints and quads in Memorial Hall will be average to above average in size as compared to the existing suites on campus. The suites will also have small kitchenettes with sink and counter space.
Students have been helping to pick furniture for the new dorms this week at a display by several prospective companies in the Goodhue Superlounge, so not all of the design decisions have been made.
One major design consideration, though, is the environmental standard for the new dorms, which are on track to receive LEED Gold certification.
Among the environmental features of the dorms are heated floors, which reduce the need for overall heating, installation of photovoltaic cells on the roof, solar-domestic heating, and a display in the lobby of each dorm monitoring the energy output of both the dorm and individual suites.
Interest now lies in seeing how the dorms affect the room draw process.
“I don’t know how it’s going to play out in room draw,” admitted Wisener, pointing out that when the newest housing facilities, the townhouses, were introduced, there was a special draw that boosted interest before the actual room draw. Floor plans and potentially April tours will be made available to students before room draw, however.
“I feel like everyone’s going to want to be in the new dorms,” said Michael Mooney, ’10, who is an RA in Goodhue. “The top 30 will probably still go to townhouses, though,” he added.
The new dorms will affect the current housing composition on campus by unpacking some of the tighter living spaces, such as the Watson triples, eliminating spaces like the Stadium apartments, and reducing Northfield Option by half.
“That’s going to ruffle a few feathers,” Wisener observed about cutting Northfield Option, but he also emphasized that Carleton is a residential campus, a fact that was reflected in the decision to make sure the new suites were on a meal plan.
“That was a strategic decision,” said Rogers, “we want students to interact with each other.” Some students may not see this as a positive thing, though, predicted Turovsky.
“The main qualm for many seniors is that people can’t be off-board,” she said, adding, “They’re amazing rooms if people are okay being on board.” In the wake of postponement on construction of the Arts Union, however, many students are simply wondering if the dorms will be affected by the decline in Carleton’s endowment.
Monetarily, the dorm construction project certainly faces budget constraints, but it was already far enough along in the construction process when news of the endowment arrived that very little change has been made to the original plan, and construction is expected to be entirely on schedule.
“It was beyond the point of no return when [the endowment situation] got really bad,” Wisener explained, “We haven’t been as impacted.” He added also that progress on the dorms is being monitored day-by-day, so students can expect to move into to the new dorms this fall.