East Campus 'freshman hub' to expand with dorms, dining hall

photo
Nicole Sullivan/THE REVIEW
The Academy Dining and Residence Hall will house 303 incoming freshmen in September 2015.

BY
SENIOR REPORTER

Once home to tennis players and basketball amateurs, the Academy Street Dining and Residence Hall (ASDR) has officially transformed what was once an area for activity into a home for incoming freshmen come September 2015.

Since its creation in June 2013, a combination of architecture, design and engineering firms, along with the university’s Facilities, Planning and Construction, Dining Services, Student Life and Residence Life collaborated to ensure overall progression. The structure has, so far, reached 60 percent of its completion.

The dorm will house 303 freshmen in three of its four floors, and to ensure the safety of the residents, each “pod,” or building section, will be separated from the first floor dining hall and will require dorm keys access for entry.

Modeled after Dickinson Complex, the pod’s floors, or communities, will follow the same “race-track layout” in which dorms encircle the lounge in an effort to promote community interaction and socialization.

Senior Associate Director of Residence Life Jim Tweedy said students played a major role in determining the best layout for the residence hall through focus groups, surveys and interviews.

According to the general feedback, Tweedy said it is important for most students to be in a place where they can meet other students, and they intentionally seek out places to do that.

“The benefits I see out of a race-track design is that kids have easier access to each other,” he said. “They typically meet more people.”

Tweedy points to Dickinson Hall as the dorm where students have the highest satisfaction and create the highest number of social connections. This is consistent year after year, Tweedy said.

Since this semester left 378 students living in triples, Carlos Dougnac, associate director of Facilities, Planning and Construction, said the new building will help the situation.

“We have 303 new beds and a tremendous increase in dining, so things are only getting better, and this is a major part of it,” he said.

But Alan Brangman, vice president of Facilities, Planning and Auxiliary Services, said these new dorm rooms will simply amount to replacement beds upon freshmen move-in 2015 because the university intends to close Rodney.

ASDR and the renovated Harrington complex will open for freshmen housing in fall 2015 joining Lane, Thompson, Russell, Gilbert, Redding and George Read, thus completing what the university deems the fourth of five phases in planned housing projects.

The fifth will incorporate a new residence hall located behind Smyth, Brangman said.

“I think that one of the biggest benefits that this project will bring is that it will really allow for all of our freshman class to be co-located in one area of the campus, so they’ll no longer be isolated on the West Campus when the last phase is built,” Brangman said.

Having all the freshmen living in one area on campus will create a more cohesive First Year Experience, Brangman said.

Along with 303 new beds, the structure will feature 1,180 seats in its 50,000 square foot dining hall. The space will incorporate an “open marketplace” design, with the hopes of creating a “fresh experience every time,” according to the Residence Life website.

This includes 13 food stations, such as vegan, kosher and gluten free. To enhance student experience, the dining hall chefs will prepare meals in front of students.

“It’s going to be really state of the art as far as dining facilities—you’ll have to go pretty far to find something nicer,” Dougnac said.

In order to maintain the university’s sustainability efforts, ASDR will also feature a “green roof” to minimize the project’s environmental impact.

According to Brangman, the “green roof” will feature sedum, or a plant medium that grows in earth and doesn’t require a substantial amount of watering, but will mitigate the amount of runoff from storm-water.

The Residence Life website also states that by building on a site at the heart of the campus, the university avoids the use of completely undeveloped land and preserves open space. The use of landscaping to share hardscape and paving, as well as cool roofs and green roofing systems will reduce the site’s solar heat gain.

As the construction process continues, Dougnac said he is confident in the progress they have made thus far.

“No problems have been major or insurmountable,” he said. “Construction is an endless series of challenges and issues that need to get resolved on almost a daily basis, but so far nothing that we haven’t been able to handle.”

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