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Grinnell gossip: The (potential) new residence hall

Topics/tags: Grinnell, short

During Jim Swartz’s talk today about Grinnell architecture in the Get to Know Grinnell lecture series, Jim mentioned that one of the early decisions in the HSSC process was that we would focus on functionality, rather than bringing in a big-name architect [1,2]. I remember Kate Walker saying something similar.

After the meeting, I turned to a friend and said something like, Given Jim’s comment about the HSSC, I’m surprised that we’re bringing in a big-name architect for the new dorms downtown. They replied, What dorms downtown? I explained that there’s a plan to build a dorm downtown in the space created by one or more of the buildings we’ve bought and torn down downtown. I’m not sure if it’s next to the new McNally’s, or where the old McNally’s was, or what. I’d heard that the downstairs will be shops and restaurants and upstairs will be student apartments.

In any case, my friend had not heard. I asked someone else, and they said that although they knew, they thought that it wasn’t broadly known on campus. So I thought I’d do a service by recording what I know about the plans. I’m not sure if it’s news or what, so I’m just calling it Grinnell gossip.

What are the plans? As I noted above, we’re planning to build something downtown that will have shops [3], restaurants [4], and rooms/apartments for students.

Why are we doing this? I don’t know all of the reasons, but I feel like I’ve heard a few. Let’s see. Some students would likely prefer to live more in the community than on campus and in apartment-style housing. This new dorm would provide that. There are concerns about the quantity and quality of off-campus housing available in town [5]. And, if I recall correctly, we’re planning some fairly major renovations to the older dorms, which means that we need swing space [6].

Is it a secret? I don’t think so. The summary of the October Board of Trustees meeting says, The Board discussed the College’s residence halls and the idea of a new residence hall building located on campus or in the Zone of Confluence downtown. So, maybe plans are less firm than I had though. I see that the excerpts from the October 9 minutes of Executive Council say that President Kington noted that the Board had a useful discussion with the proposed architects for the downtown residence hall. I also note the longer introduction to the discussion from the excerpts of the October 2 meeting.

The President commented on the upcoming Board meeting. One of the topics that will be discussed with the Board is the proposed downtown residence hall. Council members discussed whether the idea of building the residence hall should be revisited in light of the NACAC decision. The President noted that there was still a strong case for need for the new residence hall (for example, to allow the College to address accessibility issues and other maintenance needs for its eleven oldest residence halls) and commented more broadly upon the College’s plans to navigate the NACAC changes.

I see that the excerpts from October 30 also have the following.

The President noted that the Board is discussing the programmatic value of building a downtown residence hall. They are also discussing how this project would be financed (and whether the College would simultaneously fund updates to its existing residence halls). These discussions will culminate in a special Board meeting later this year.

I wonder if that’s the same special Board meeting that will include discussions of the Student Union.

I was going to say that I didn’t remember the name of the proposed architect. But I see that it’s in the minutes of the August 28, 2019 meeting.

Adjaye Associates, an architectural firm led by Sir David Adjaye, has been contacted about the possibility of designing the building. Adjaye is the lead architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The firm is interested in exploring the project and has visited Grinnell. Kington is cautiously optimistic that terms can be met for this potentially transformative project.

I don’t know where we stand on Adjaye associates, but it sounds like a cool opportunity. However, I do want to hear from Fredo what he thinks about their work.

I should also note that those minutes include a longer discussion of the potential new dorm.

Now you know at least as much as I do about the new dorm.

Postscript: For those who care, the minutes of Faculty Meetings can be found at Access is limited to people with accounts on GrinCo. I don’t know if access is more limited than that. You can also find excerpts from Council Minutes in the agendas for faculty meetings. The ones I mentioned were in the agenda for the November 18 meeting.

Postscript: One of my readers wrote the following.

There seems to be some conflation of two different projects here. The downtown dorm (slated for the former Pizza Hut lot) is intended to be primarily a residence hall (unknown whether it will be apartment-style, suite-style, other, mixed). There will likely be non-residence space on the first floor, but (probably) not retail. The project is not secret, but in early stages (which is why my statements are all qualified), with no specific design yet (I’ve been in several meetings about it, but am not on the planning committee, the members of which would know more).

The retail-apartment space I haven’t heard about for awhile, and I know less about it, but that was (is?) planned for the old McNally’s location. I had heard (and recall a couple sketches) of retail space below and apartments (but not specifically student apartments) above.

Postscript: If you don’t know about the NACAC changes and what a Grinnell Gossip musing on the topic, let me know.

[1] That’s not quite how Jim phrased it, but it’s close enough.

[2] Insert obligatory comments about music buildings with bumpy floors that de-tune pianos when you move them, museum buildings with contracts that disallow display cases, and art buildings that lack loading docks.

[3] Maybe including the bookstore.

[4] As long as we’re sure they won’t interfere with those already in town, or so I’ve heard.

[5] The new regulations on rental housing will likely improve the quality but decrease the quantity and increase the cost of housing in town.

[6] No, not for dancing. However, it would be cool if the new dorms had a dance floor.

Version 1.0 of 2019-12-10.

Version 1.1 released 2019-12-10.