The Ole Avenue Project has officially broken ground on the north side of St. Olaf Avenue. The $60 million project aims to address the shortage of on-campus housing by prioritizing student comfort and space.
“We definitely need more housing,” said Synneva Bratland ’22, a resident of the Norwegian House, a house that will be torn down for the project. “It has to go somewhere, and this is the best space for it.”
The project provides over 440 beds — 300 in a new residential hall and 140 in several town-houses — to meet this high demand. The increase in housing space will allow suites to have connected bathroom. Additionally, the new cohesive look of the project focuses on outdoor interactions and large spaces to combat overcrowding.
Although construction on the north side on Ole Ave is ongoing, the south side honor houses still remain untouched. The disruption of construction has been difficult for students living in the honor houses.
“[The construction] may definitely be a problem for honor house students once it heads here,” Bratland said. “It’s just not ideal to be living in a construction zone.”
Others voiced similar concerns. “[Construction] starts very early, which can be annoying” said Henning Tonko ’22, a resident of the Norwegian house. Additionally, many are dispirited at not being able to experience the new residential area.
“As a senior, it’s unfortunate that we have to be a part of the construction mess without ever seeing the finished product,” said Annika Peterson ’21 of St. John’s House.
Though there is excitement about the changes being made, student concerns have arisen regarding the residential area itself. According to Andrea Burton ’21, a member of the Norwegian house, “Olaf expansion, by taking down the honor houses, is a rather infantilizing move. It takes away autonomy of students by creating an insular Olaf bubble. The honor houses [were] ways to expose yourself to the Northfield community.”
Others feel saddened by the effects of the demolition. “We are a little sad that our house is going to be demolished … We hope that [the Ole Avenue Project] will still have the same level of privacy in the sense of being a cohesive unit,” said Helen White ’23 of the Norwegian House. “If we’re just shoved in with the other language houses, it just feels less special.”
The project’s timeline predicts breaking ground on the south side sometime during spring 2021.