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Housing plan proposes massive changes to interest and cultural houses

In a meeting with Resident Assistants (RAs) on October 12, Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston unveiled the college’s new housing plan, which entails renovations and the rebuilding of certain interest houses and all cultural houses. 

The rationale behind the project includes replacing small, inefficient houses that are expensive to maintain and creating more equitable physical conditions across houses. According to the presentation, “80 percent of residential houses were built prior to 1930 and have not had a major renovation and require capital investments in the near future.” Additionally, the plan aims to increase the prevalence of townhouses—aiming for an 80/20 mix between dorm and house-style units for student living.

Overall, the plan seeks to increase the total number of beds on campus from 1,896 to 1,919. 

In pursuit of these goals, significant changes include demolishing and rebuilding Farm, Parr and all three of the Office of Intercultural Life’s cultural houses: Hunt Cottage, Hall House and Williams House. In addition, college administration plans to renovate Page, Rice, Parish and Jewett. The plan further proposes removing all students housed in Faculty Club, and demolishing Geffert, Prentice, Allen, and Wilson with no plans to replace them. Though Dacie Moses is structurally similar to the buildings slated for demolition, administration is opting to renovate it given its cultural significance to the Carleton community.  

The plan is structured in four sequential stages. 

Phase 1, titled the “Building Capacity Phase”, will span 34 months. It entails the construction of houses and townhouses holding a total of 88 to 102 beds at Lilac Hill, which is the current region of Farm and Parr houses. The two sustainability interest houses will remain untouched during this part of the plan. Additionally, approximately 45 beds are slated to be built at the north end of Union Street as part of newly constructed cultural interest houses. Hall House (Asia House) and Hunt Cottage (Casa del Sol), which are located in the area, are currently scheduled to be demolished. 

Phase 2 describes a 51-month plan to construct more beds along Union Street near existing townhomes. Houses affiliated with the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC)—Berg, Henrickson (QTBIPOC House) and Clader—will be removed, along with Stimson (Intercultural Center), Henry (Disability Services) and Williams (Freedom House). A new SHAC facility will be built at the Southeast corner of Union and First Street”, and the current SHAC facility in the basement of Davis Hall will be repurposed as student housing. 

Phase 3 will take place over the course of 28 months and mainly involves renovating existing houses. Parish, Jewett, Rice and Page (Jewish and Muslim interest house) are all staged for renovation. Farm and Parr will be demolished and not replaced. 

Phase 4 is projected to take nine months and calls for the removal of Geffert, Prentice, Allen and Wilson Houses with no replacements planned. These houses are within the Cannon River’s floodplain, and could present an issue should students continue to be housed there.  Administration is additionally considering removing Douglas House (Christian interest house) as well as vacating Faculty Club of any students.

Dean Livingston noted in her presentation that multiple campus groups—including the Student Housing Project Team, a “cultural/interest house review”, student focus groups, and a “preliminary review by Trustees in May 2021”—had been consulted in devising this plan. 

In addition to meeting with RAs, Dean Livingston also presented the plan to Carleton Student Association’s Senate and the residents of houses staged for removal. Questions arose over the choice of which buildings to renovate as opposed to rebuild. Dean Livingston assured that a cost-benefit analysis was done and that demolishing some houses resulted in the best option for the college considering their conditions. Another question was raised about accommodating the would-be residents of buildings up for removal. Livingston stated the college will find appropriate housing to compensate for beds under construction. 

More details regarding accommodation and the new living spaces are expected to become available as the execution of the plan approaches.

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