Student housing renovated over summer break

In continuing the College’s efforts to improve all aspects of student life, the Housing Department and Buildings and Grounds (B&G) are nearing completion on an exhaustive summer-long project to refurbish and upgrade several major dorms on campus. Throughout the summer, B&G coordinated major construction in Tyler House, Tyler Annex, and brought the Gladden and Mark Hopkins Houses up to standard with the rest of the buildings in the Greylock Quad, which were renovated last summer. “On the student housing renovations, let me say that I am really thrilled with the renovation work that we accomplished this summer,” said Tom McEvoy, director of housing.

McEvoy specifically focused on the work done in the Tyler complex, which is usually viewed as an isolated place to live due to its distant location from the campus center. McEvoy feels that Housing’s attempts to the needs of the occupants will make both Tyler House and Tyler Annex more attractive and livable dormitories.

“We transformed a prison-like atmosphere in Tyler Annex into a place that I really think students will like to be,” said McEvoy. “The color scheme was risky, but has brightened the place up. We added a great kitchen space, a new bath to the basement and installed a window in the basement to lighten up the rec area.”

Other modifications made to Tyler Annex, which was built in 1972 and has not been renovated since, included the installation of new carpeting, more pleasing light fixtures and a new fire alarm/sprinkler system. Furthermore, two former bedrooms were converted into a combination kitchen and lounge, which addresses student desires for common spaces to increase the feeling of a house community.

By gutting and redesigning the interior of Tyler House, the building now meets state codes for handicapped access to the first floor and provides greater access to its lawn spaces and outdoor barbecues. In order to provide more amenities to the building’s occupants, a kitchen and expanded laundry facilities were added as well.

However, all reactions were not positive. During the reconfiguration of rooms, a room judged to be a “reasonably sized” single room by the Housing Department was separated into two smaller singles, which are both among the smallest singles on campus. While it is common for Housing to divide a large double into two smaller rooms, division of a single is rare.

“It’s hard knowing that sophomores are living in huge doubles while we were forced to pick into the available singles across campus,” said Laddie Peterson ’02. Peterson and Carrie Jones ’02 felt that the size of the resulting room was not communicated correctly to them. “We were also not aware of the fact that our rooms would become what I like to call ‘glorified closets,’” said Peterson. “One of my friends who picked in down the hall has a bed the size of [my room].”

“I’ve seen singles in Tyler that could be divided into larger rooms than ours,” said Jones. Since McEvoy was also not aware that the resulting rooms would be so small, a private bathroom is being built for the two seniors.

Despite the apparent miscommunication, most student reactions to the Tyler renovations have been overwhelmingly positive. “It feels much more comfortable now,” said Elliott Baer ’04. “I’d definitely consider living there if I get the chance.”

Due to the complex’s distance from the rest of campus, many of the occupants have bicycles, so B&G has constructed a large storage shed for bicycles.

On the whole, McEvoy was effusive in his praise for all those involved, and especially for the Breadloaf Corporation, which did the actual construction, and Michael Briggs of B&G, who coordinated and supervised the project’s execution.

The other major construction project was the renovation of the remaining two Greylock Quad buildings, Carter and Gladden. While old architectural elements, such as the waffled ceilings, remain, new wall coverings and light fixtures were installed, as were better-quality carpets.

Furthermore, while Greylock buildings used to have several different suites with adjoining common rooms on a given floor, the walls between the various common rooms were torn out, making larger communal common rooms. As a result, traffic flows more easily through the floors and the buildings feel more open.

With the conclusion of the recent construction, the entire Greylock Quad has been brought up to uniform standards, consisting primarily of less cramped common areas, improved kitchens, lounges on the first floors of all the buildings and newer furniture throughout the complex. “It was an extremely intense project to complete in one summer, and we appreciate the students bearing with us through these final few days of work,” noted McEvoy.

The final large-scale project involving student dormitories involved a refinishing of all the Mission Park houses. The College laid thicker carpet throughout the suites and provided new furniture in all student rooms. The furniture system was chosen from several model systems by students, and is notable for its ease of rearrangement within the irregularly-shaped Mission Park rooms. The modular design of the furniture allows easy stacking, and the multiple height settings on the beds are especially useful, as students can loft the mattresses if they wish and use the space below for storage or furniture.