The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News November 4, 2005

Phase 2 of Oberlin’s new housing plan revealed

In its first meeting of the 2005-2006 academic year, Oberlin College’s Housing and Dining Committee outlined its plans for the Phase 2 building project, an on-campus residence hall for upperclassmen.

According to Sal Filardi, associate director for planning and construction, this building project is part of Oberlin’s “series of strategic initiatives to bring students, juniors and seniors, back to campus.”

This project is the second part of the College’s effort to create on-campus housing for an additional 300 students. Phase 1 of the project was the new Union Street apartments.

“In Oberlin College’s Strategic Plan, it states as a goal to ‘develop an excellent and distinctive residential life program that supports the academic mission of the College, embraces diversity and provides a residential community that fosters students’ personal, social and educational development,’” says Molly Tyson, director of Residential Education. “The College and the Board of Trustees has determined that one way to meet this goal is by increasing the number [of] students living together in an on-campus community.”

In order to address the issue of students moving off-campus, the college pledged to bring 300 students back by creating housing that would appeal to upperclassmen.

Filardi affirmed that the town of Oberlin supports the college in this goal.

“There was a push from the town to move students back to campus,” he said.

The Union Street apartments created 132 new beds. Phase 2 will create the remaining 168. At the Housing and Dining Committee’s first meeting, Filardi said that “a lot of thought and effort went into this project” in order to ensure that students were satisfied. According to Filardi, this is why new housing will all have single bedrooms and private bathrooms.

The Phase 2 project will be built on land directly adjacent to Stevenson Hall. The current plan is for a three-story, L-shaped building which would house 56 students on each floor. The rooms in the new building will offer suites containing four single bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a common area.

Although each student will not have as much space as those living in the Union Street apartments, there will be roughly 200 square feet of total space for each student, about double the square footage of living space in the average residence hall. The Phase 2 building will also include storage space and possibly practice spaces. Additionally, there will be a multipurpose room to be used for classes, social programs, small concerts and exhibiting student art.

In addition to the land intended for the building site, the College has also purchased some of the adjacent houses to create a buffer between the new building and its neighbors. Members of the planning committee have already held a meeting with nearby landowners to discuss their concerns.

Phase 2 is projected to cost about $12.6 million. Some funding for the project has already been acquired in bonds that were purchased to fund Phase 1. The Board of Trustees will address options for additional funding when they meet in December.

“We’re trying to understand what [the students are] thinking so that we can design the right kind of space,” said Filardi.

However, the student body is not entirely without doubts about the project. Some students are concerned about how the Phase 2 project will affect lower-income students. Because of the increase in the supply of on-campus housing, it will become more difficult for students to move off campus.

If the housing created in the Phase 2 project is more expensive than off-campus housing, those students who are forced to live in on-campus housing but cannot afford it may be at a disadvantage.

Some students are concerned that the Phase 2 housing will not be built in what they consider to be an environmentally friendly fashion. However, Filardi maintains that he and his coworkers are committed to making the project as environmentally sustainable as possible, while remaining within budget constraints.

“All our construction has some component of an environmental decision in it,” said Filardi. He also said that the construction project will try to include as many green attributes as the budget will allow. It will do so by incorporating design plans such as day lighting, windows, cross ventilation and Energy Star appliances.

Still other students hold a skeptical view of the College’s organizational capabilities after what they considered to be a poor job in the construction of the Union Street apartments. In the Housing and Dining Committee meeting, Sal Filardi tried to relieve these student concerns. He explained that there will be a waiting period after the completion of construction before students can move in. He also assured that there would be “extra sensitivity to the schedule” this time.

The Phase 2 project should be turned over to the College by Aug. 1 2006, with students moving in at the beginning of the next academic year. The Housing and Dining Committee has not planned its next meeting.

“We’re going to have to have some evolution on the design before we meet again,” said Filardi.


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