By Caitlyn Maltese
Elm Staff Writer
On March 18, the Chestertown Planning Commission approved Washington College’s final site plan for a new dormitory building, Bohemia Hall. The new residence hall will be built in zone four behind Chester and Sassafras Hall where the beach volleyball court currently stands. The building is planned to open for the fall 2016 semester.
“The flipside to having a new dorm is that there is gonna be construction near Chester and Sassafras,” said Vice President of Finance and Administration Mark Hampton. “It’s going to be noisy and impact some of the parking and it’s gonna move the sand volleyball court. You know, there is always something lost with something gained. But, hopefully if students know and they can see the long-term benefits of it, they can understand the short-term inconveniences of it.”
“The buildings are all going to look alike,” said Reid Raudenbush, director of physical plant. “You won’t be able to tell after a couple of years that they weren’t all built at the same time. Originally they were all supposed to be built at the same time. We got permission in 2006 to build three buildings and they were all designed in 2006.”
However, according to Raudenbush, a couple of months after they went back to the Planning Commission in 2006 funding the project became problematic.
“The decision was made, based on our student enrollments at the time, not to build it because we didn’t have the demand,” said Hampton.
The decision was made when building the geothermal field that would fuel the first two buildings to include the third building in future plans. Due to the anticipated future addition of a third building, enough wells were drilled for all of the buildings.
“We scraped back the whole baseball field… We drilled 160 wells, the tops of the wells are about four feet underground and about 250 feet deep and they all connect together with piping… We drilled all the wells for all three buildings. So, they are already in place,” said Raudenbush.
“This building is actually being constructed as student swing space. When this opens in fall 2016, that same year we are actually taking the Cullen dorms (Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico) offline,” said Director of Residence Life Carl Crowe. “The entire building will be shut down for a year and we are going to completely redo it. I suspect at this point the outside is going to look the same but the inside is going to be completely redone. It’s a great opportunity to get rid of things like window unit air conditioning, put in new H.V. A.C., new piping, and totally redesign the rooms and do some different things with it to kind of bring that building into the 21st century.”
In order to accommodate for the beds lost in Cullen, the original floor plans for Bohemia had to be modified in order to make room for additional beds. In the new configuration, Bohemia will house 112 beds,16 more than included in the 2006 plan.
“The building will look just like [Chester and Sassafras]: Brick, three stories, same kind of roof, trim, everything, except the lounge will be in the middle of the building. It will look right through the center of that little green down towards the field,” said Raudenbush.
“It will close off the courtyard,” said Hampton. “The courtyard will make a little more sense.”
“We’ve made some revisions to the interior of the building just to reflect some of what we’ve learned from Chester and Sass,” said Hampton.
Though the exterior will be almost identical to Chester and Sassafras, the interior will be fairly different. The typical suite style found in the existing buildings has two singles and one double sharing a common area with a sink, a separate room for the toilet, and a separate room with a shower. Unlike the originals, Bohemia will have a “Jack and Jill” setup. Two double rooms will comprise a suite. Each room will have their own sink inside their respective rooms. A bathroom with a shower and toilet will connect the two rooms.
According to Crowe, it is modeled so “if they are taking a shower, they actually lock the door so you can’t walk in on them and vice versa.”
“Not having a common area is really intentional because if you think about it, if we take Cullen offline, who tends to live there? It’s largely first years with a smattering of sophomores,” said Crowe. “If you get first years into a space like this, you get them into a common area and it’s easier to lose them. We need to be able to pull people out.”
As Raudenbush mentioned, the first floor lounge will be in the middle of the building. Unlike Chester, in Bohemia the lounge will be connected to the conference room similar to the one found in Sass. The rooms will be divided by what Crowe hopes will be a set of French doors.
“Students can have this as a quiet study option, but we will be able to open it that way if we decide to hold a bigger event in this space we will still be able to make use of it,” he said.
According to Crowe, the new building will feature an additional security door similar to the one in Sassafras.
“We can open the space and make it available for students to use across campus. This system creates an opportunity for more programming space… If the RAs over in the river dorms want to have a large program, this provides a venue for it.”
“In the fall of this year coming up we are actually going to have academics teaching two GRW classes in the basement of West. As we’re looking to the future and building new buildings do we have some opportunities… to sort of blend some things?” said Crowe.
“The timeline is very tight and we really want to have a roof on this by December of this year so that when we get into the winter months, we can be working inside the building. The plan is to have the building finished by July 2016. I know at room draw in the spring of 2016 they’ll be giving away the rooms in that new building. So that building has to be finished over the summer because there will be some number of students who are going to have the opportunity to [live there],” said Raudenbush.
“It’s so expensive to build these buildings that you have to build them as quickly as you can because there is just sort of a fixed amount of expense- every month the price goes up. It’s just very expensive,” he said.
Though the cost has not been bid out yet, Raudenbush estimates the price of construction to fall between $35,000 and $45,000 a month, with total costs of the project estimated at $ 10 million.
“This is part of a much longer range plan, which is to go back and really get into to the older buildings that need some real work,” said Raudenbush. “Typically, we only have those 85 days after commencement and when the first students return in June, July, and August…to really get into a building, particularly if it needs a new H.V.A.C. system, if it needs plumbing redone or it needs to be rewired, you really need a much longer amount of time.”
“This will give us, temporarily, the ability to relocate students over to the new residence hall and therefore allow us to take residence halls offline,” said Hampton.
After the Cullen dorms, the institution plans to focus on the Hill dorms and then eventually Reid and Minta Martin.
“In year two, all three of the Hill dorms will come offline and they will get the same treatment. In year three, Reid house will get that treatment,” said Crowe.
“It’s mostly going in and modernizing it. We can’t and nor do we really want to bring something like Minta Martin or Reid Hall to where they look like Chester and Sassafras and the new dorm. They are very different styles and they really serve a different purpose in the life of a student here,” said Hampton.
“That said: we also recognize that they need to be nicer, as nice as we can make them. That’s really what the goal is here: that they are comfortable, they are safe, and that they are healthy buildings and that they are easier to maintain so that we are not constantly having to run up there to fix heater or plumbing problems because that itself is a very costly way to manage the buildings,” he said.
WC approved funding to replace all of the bedroom furniture in a to-be-selected dorm building.
“It’s a good thing and I think it’s really reflects the institutional recommitment. You know, living on campus is really a part of the liberal arts experience,” said Crowe. “If you look at the mission of Washington College, it says, second word in, we are a residential. And the institution refocusing some resources back into what that residential experience is like is really a good commitment to what goes on for their students here.”