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2010 Winter Issue 2 (January 22, 2010)

Evans dorm renovation closer to reality: Plan focuses on floor life, safety

January 22, 2010
By Emily Hartley

In an effort to bring Carleton’s residential living up to par, the dark hallways and confusing columns of Evans Hall may soon get a facelift.

The Evans Renovation Committee is working to secure $5.2 million for a project that would include changing the building’s column-grouped room structure, adding lounges and an open gathering space, and creating a “Front Door.”

“I think it’s been at least a decade that this has been around as something people have thought about,” Vice President and Treasurer of the College Fred Rogers said.

As co-chair of the Renovation Committee with Dean of Students Hudlin Wagner, Rogers said the number of points that need to be addressed paired with the amount of money required has made the endeavor a struggle. The committee began planning last summer and met with architects several times over the fall to come up with its current plan, which Rogers says is still subject to change.

Since its completion in 1927, Margaret Evans Hall has been a unique dorm on campus. Modeled after what Rogers calls the “chic” dorms of Harvard and Williams, its column arrangement was intended to keep down noise in the originally all-girls dorm.

Due to fire and safety regulations, the renovation plan includes taking out two of the five column staircases and merging the columns into one hallway on each floor. The previous staircases will become student rooms and an elevator shaft. Additional space will also be used for communal bathrooms, though some rooms will still have private ones, and unlike now, each floor will have a lounge with a kitchen.

The committee hopes the changes will bring more “floor life” to the hall, which some students cited as lacking in a survey last fall.

“They said the one thing Evans doesn’t have is natural interaction,” committee member Michael Alexander ‘12 said. “That happens in bathrooms, in hallways.”

While the renovated dorm will be hallway-centered like the rest of the residence halls on campus, the unique room shapes and sizes will be kept, and it will likely remain an upperclassman-only dorm.

“The dorms on campus are generally very similar to each other, and it would be a shame to make Evans conform to that,” Alexander said.

By keeping the four and five-people rooms, the committee hopes to retain some of what Alexander refers to as “the culture of Evans”—meaning its reputation for being a weekend hot spot on campus.

“People either love or hate the culture,” Alexander said. “One of the concerns of Residential Life was not that they wanted to destroy that culture, but for Res. Life, it’s kind of a chore.

“I’m a big proponent for accommodating different groups,” he said. “The whole project has been kind of a compromise: ‘Can we use the physical features of Evans to change or not change the culture?’”

Another concern was the accessibility of Evans and its amenities, including the Evans Dining Hall and the Cave. The old kitchen attached to the dining hall will be removed, creating a large space that Rogers hopes will be used for more public gatherings. In order to do this, though, he said the public spaces should be separate from the residential area.

To solve this problem, a “Front Door” will be constructed on the ground floor facing Myers Hall. From the entrance, one can either enter the residential area through a One Card-secure door or enter a public hallway that leads to the dining hall and the Cave.

The entrance itself will include a path from the sidewalk to a circular stone plaza in front of the doors, which then lead to a two-story lobby.

“One of the big problems is that it’s not very inviting,” Alexander said. “There’s no place for you to go into it—something that really makes you go, ‘Wow, look at that building. I really want to walk down that path.’”

Beyond cosmetic work, the building also needs an upgraded heating system, but according to Rogers, money for that would likely come from maintenance funding.

For the rest of the $5.2 million project, the committee will spend this term appealing to the Board of Trustees with the aim of attaining funding in order to begin construction by July. Once construction is underway, the project will take roughly six months, meaning that if the money is secured, Evans could be closed during fall term.

“We thought we could probably survive a fall term by squeezing, but we could never survive a winter or spring term,” Rogers said.

As Rogers and Alexander both stressed, though, the project is still in the planning stages, and no dates have been set. Student income is still welcome, and Alexander said the committee is open to ideas for the expanded Evans Dining Hall, where he suggested included a snack or coffee bar or game room.

“There’s a lot of thought put into what the students want,” he said. “It’s been fun and encouraging to see adults who care about that sort of thing.

“I’m actually honored to be a part of it,” Rogers said. “We’re taking a 100 year old building and thinking about how to give it another 100 years.”

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