As the deadline to add 385 beds to campus per the 2010 Campus Plan approaches, the Office of Residential Living permanently closed the Alumni Square Residential Hall Office at the end of the spring semester to make way for a new apartment.
The East Campus RHO, located in LXR Hall, previously only served LXR and Nevils, but now caters to the needs of Alumni Square and townhouse residents, which include package handling, key services and the provision of carts and cleaning supplies.
“We looked at resource allocation and then as we started looking at the realities of the campus plan, the implications of having to add 385 beds and the realization that we weren’t going to be able to get all of those beds on campus by next fall, we started looking at what kind of things we could do to not have to put people in temporary housing,” Executive Director of Residential Services Patrick Killilee said.
An audit of the seven RHOs, conducted in the spring and fall of 2013, revealed that the Alumni Square RHO was the second least-used facility, after Copley. Its conversion presented an attractive opportunity as it allowed for the addition of four beds in an apartment space, which are coveted by upperclassmen.
“That’s four less triples we have to add next fall, when we go into the temporary housing that we’ll have to add because Northeast Triangle won’t be ready yet,” Killilee said.
During the academic year, the combined population of LXR and Nevils is around 600, while 356 students live in Alumni Square and 259 in townhouses, whose residents use RHOs primarily for key services.
“Even with two additional residential units added on, there are no problems and it’s a bit more interesting because there’s more to do,” Christian Bakken (COL ’16), a summer employee at the East Campus RHO, said.
To accommodate increased traffic, the LXR package room is currently undergoing expansion, which Killilee estimates was 60 to 70 percent complete by the end of May.
“When I was in there, [the construction] would be annoying at times … but it didn’t really interfere with anything we’re doing,” Bakken said.
After the LXR construction finished, the Alumni Square site will commence renovation. The new apartment will be completed by the fall.
“The space was actually available for selection. For the group that selected it, I sent them an email saying, ‘If you go to try to find this apartment, currently it’s the RHO. That’s not a mistake, we’re doing a renovation,’” Killilee said. “We didn’t want someone to go look at it and go, ‘Why am I living in an RHO?’”
The shuttered RHO previously housed an apartment; thus, the space already includes a bathroom and a cavity for a kitchen. Compared to their neighbors, the apartment’s future residents will have the use of an upgraded kitchen.
“We had to add in a kitchen, but one of the things that’s nice about this is we’re looking at doing some refiguring of that kitchen, redesigning it to add a full-sized refrigerator so, down the road, when we do renovation in Alumni Square, we can have full-sized refrigerators instead of the small refrigerators and freezers the current set-up has,” Killilee said.
While the Copley RHO was less frequented than its Alumni Square counterpart, it figures into long-term consolidation plans and may service the upcoming Old Jesuit Residence. Further consolidation will take place upon completion of the Northeast Triangle, which is being designed with a large package room. The future RHO will absorb all of North Campus, including Darnall and Henle.
Each RHO costs around $50,000 a year to operate, with the majority of that sum vested in salaries, including summer wages.
“This year, that savings will probably be seen by the minimum wage increase,” Killilee said. “We didn’t make this decision based on the minimum wage increase; we actually made this decision before.”
The consolidation reduces total RHO staff, which consists of students, and eliminates one manager position. The Office of Residential Living did not publicly announce the move, but notified RHO employees, the Georgetown University Student Association, InterHall and resident assistants.
“In general, the feedback we got from student leaders on campus wasn’t negative, particularly as we were able to add another apartment, particularly in light of the campus plan requirements,” Killilee said. “The student leaders we spoke to thought it was a good, reasonable compromise.”
Beatrice Fabris (COL ’16) will reside in Alumni Square in the fall and expressed concern about the distance of the designated RHO.
“I can appreciate the reasoning behind why they would close the RHO,” she wrote in an email. “But of course it does inconvenience the residents living in [Alumni Square]. The key concern I have is with regard to larger packages and the added difficulty about carrying heavy objects — all my storage boxes get sent to the RHO — a greater distance.”
Nevertheless, with looming housing requirement deadlines and budget concerns, Killilee sees the move as the most prudent option.
“We’re really trying to be able to offer a service that we currently provide but do it in a way that is efficient,” he said. “We want to make sure that we put our resources where they’re most needed so that we can provide good service to students, overall.”