Project nears completion, prepares to house students in the fall

The Ole Avenue Project is well on its way to completion. The housing project, which will see a new dorm and 14 townhomes built on St. Olaf Avenue, is on track to open up to students as an option for housing in the fall of 2022. 

The project experienced few interruptions or delays according to Associate Dean for Residence Life Pamela McDowell and Chief Financial Officer Jan Hanson. Any issues with supply delivery resolved themselves, and an increase seen in lumber prices that has stalled construction projects around the country was covered by the built-in contingency funds in the project’s budget. 

Boldt Company, the general contracting firm that the College hired for the project, will have the dorm and townhomes completed by late May to mid-June of 2022. Furniture and flooring will be put into the building by August, and a final clean will be conducted prior to the arrival of resident assistants (RAs), who will move in by August 26, McDowell said. 

The project, which broke ground in February 2021, required the demolition of several honor houses, a move that caused concern amongst students, especially those currently living in honor houses who will be relocated next year. Along with this student concern, the on-campus health service operation required relocating due to the townhomes’s construction, and the College outsourced services to a local clinic. 

Originally, all planning for the multi-faceted, $60 million project was conducted over Zoom. The housing plan received initial approval only six weeks before COVID-19 shut down the campus. This caused construction to be delayed until the following spring. The core planning group continues to hold weekly project meetings via Zoom to discuss the status of the project and other decisions, such as what furniture to include in the new housing.

 The dorm will have three floors and hold around 300 people — about 100 students per floor — according to McDowell. The suites will share connected bathrooms with two sinks, a separate room with a shower, and another with a toilet. 

McDowell said that the project is largely reflective of the student body’s desires for housing.

“There was so much work done by our architects on the front end, asking students what they wanted. What did [students] appreciate about their housing, what were they looking for in their community, what were they looking for when they wanted to be living with their friends?” McDowell said. “There is so much communal space [in the dorm] — big kitchens, big lounges, laptop bars, just places to hangout, places for people to come together which is really, really wonderful.”

The dorm will also have four-person pods and single rooms. Its construction design was based on student desires for what they wanted their housing to look like, McDowell said. 

Past complaints about off-campus honor houses reported students feeling isolated and far from campus. The new townhomes remedy this with their closer location on St. Olaf Avenue. The outdoor communal spaces and sand volleyball court, which will be built near the townhomes on the north side of the avenue, will encourage student activity in the area. There will also be a large parking lot added behind the buildings for students to utilize.

 The townhomes will most likely hold upper-class students and are the first houses to be offered through the room selection process. 

With the addition of this housing, other residential buildings across campus can be renovated again, McDowell said. Hoyme and Hilleboe lounges, which have been used as bedrooms for the past decade, can be returned to their original purposes. This increase in rooms will also allow triples in Kittlesby to be returned to doubles.

 The way the new housing project will reshape existing dorms is one of its primary benefits according to McDowell. 

“I’m excited about the project,” McDowell said. “And I’m excited to see how it causes the other buildings to transform.”


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