By Mary Sprague
Elm Staff Writer
As Washington College grows, so does the demand for housing space. In the upcoming academic year, there will be several changes made to housing in order to accommodate this growth and the need for updated and modern living spaces.
Kent House, currently under renovation, will be open again for the 2017-18 academic year as freshman STEM housing.
Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life Ursula Herz said, “This is following a lot of research and best practice.…The freshman year for a lot of science majors is really hard.…. [Science majors] benefit from helping each other get through it.”
Herz said that West Hall did not successfully function as a science house for freshmen, as only four could get in every year, which is why the decision to open up more science-themed housing was made.
Renovations to Kent have been ongoing throughout the year, and are scheduled to be finished by early August 2017.
Reid Raudenbush, construction project manager, said, “[Kent] was originally taken offline because it was a 1962 building that had its original heating system and no air conditioning.… We designed a modern heating and air conditioning system for the building … with individual controls, and are also … replacing all of the windows with brand new thermal windows…. We also were looking at the plumbing.”
While the building was offline, they decided to replace the piping and fixtures in the bathrooms throughout the summer.
West Hall will remain open for upperclassmen science majors.
There will be some changes in themed housing. East Hall will no longer serve as the International House, and will instead have all-gender inclusive singles. Hartford Hall will no longer require a group of seven, and instead be available for multiple smaller groups that make seven total.
Renovations are planned for Cullen Hall, which contains Wicomico, Somerset, and Worcester. This is currently slated to open for the 2018-19 academic year.
“We’re not closing Cullen for renovation for a year,” Herz said. “It needs a lot of work. …The cost of that was much higher than we had anticipated, so what we decided to do was keep it online for another year and save the money to actually do it correctly.”
Raudenbush said that Cullen is a 1950s building that lacks modern heating and cooling systems, and deals with plumbing problems. The building is currently divided into three separate sections, but the plan is to open the corridors up and make it one cohesive building. They also plan to move all the independent laundry machines to a lower-level laundry room.
“They chopped it into three, which makes it terrible to build community,” Herz said. “When we’re looking at the renovations, what we’d like to do is add an elevator, which would be attached to Somerset, and would actually go down to the basement. The plan is [to] renovate the basement, and Public Safety will be relocated elsewhere. In the architectural plans is a recreational room, … and then we’d like to build in a kitchen, and then a large study room with maybe two little study rooms off of it.”
For only this upcoming academic year, Somerset Hall is going to be all singles.
“The reason we’re doing that is because we didn’t put Cullen down for renovation, so we weren’t expecting to have it. We have a little more space than we expected.”
The next speculated renovations after Cullen are East, Middle, and West halls. As these renovations are projected far into the future, there are no specific plans yet.
“We’re probably going to do the Hill [dorms]. I don’t have confirmation, but when you look at their condition, they’re next,” Herz said. “There’s a lot of complications with them, though, because they’re historical buildings…. you can’t just do whatever you want with them.… They’re also important buildings. We’ve had a couple architects mention to us [that] these are in architectural study books, as examples of that architecture.”
“They’ll be challenging because of their age, because of their historic nature. And, there are three of them,” said Raudenbush. “While there are three buildings, they operate as a single building. There’s only a mechanical room in Middle.… I’m guessing that’ll change a little bit…. It’ll be a much more complicated system, because of the historic nature of those buildings, and you don’t really want to alter them.”
For more information about housing, students are encouraged to go to the Residential Life page on the WC website.
By Mary Sprague