Last summer, administrators ran into an unexpected roadblock after releasing designs for the Northeast Triangle Residence Hall: impassioned alumni and student objection to the dorm’s appearance. This objection eventually led to the delay of the new residence hall from fall 2015 to fall 2016 and a search for a new look that could be accepted by the Georgetown community.
When students returned to campus in the fall, housing continued to dominate university announcements and news throughout the year. In some cases, similarly strong reactions again stopped university projects, including a proposed satellite residence and changes to the housing process for current sophomores.
As the year winds down, construction is set to begin on the Northeast Triangle pending another round of approval by the Old Georgetown Board, and a third-year housing requirement for all students is now official. Housing will likely continue to play an important role in student-administrator interactions as some of the headlines that garnered student attention this year take shape on campus.
Northeast Triangle Moves Forward
Plans for the Northeast Triangle met their first obstacle at the OGB’s June meeting. The board rejected the university’s original proposal — a seven-story building that would house 250 students — and suggested that administrators present alternative housing options as well as adapt the design for the Northeast Triangle in accordance with student and alumni opinions. Prior to the June meeting, OGB members received approximately 20 emails from students expressing their distaste for the new residence.
In response to student and alumni criticism of the building’s design and location on one of the only remaining green spaces on the north side of campus, administrators and architects from Sasaki Architect Company held a series of forums throughout the summer and fall semester. Additionally, administrators met with certain “target” student groups, such as Residence Hall Office managers, resident assistants and the InterHall Council, to garner more feedback.
“Backing up and going through all of the student-engagement process really got to the crux of what it was to be a building on Georgetown and for Georgetown and what it meant to build within the context of not only the history, but the existing campus plan and also to build for the future,” Associate University Architect Jodi Ernst said.
After impassioned alumni and student distaste for the first Northeast Triangle Residence Hall design, far left, Sasaki Associates redesigned the dormitory to reach its current incarnation, far right. Changes from August to now aimed to better integrate the building with Georgetown’s existing architecture, both by the front gates and on the north side of campus.
In February, architects presented updated plans for the building that were based on student input and OGB’s suggestions. The eight-story building will include a variety of semi-suites consisting of two, four or six beds and a compartmentalized bathroom. Additionally, each residential floor will have a common room and a kitchen. With GOCard room access, the Northeast Triangle will be Georgetown’s first keyless residence hall.
The ground floor of the building will have a large, open engagement space, which will include a large workroom, a multipurpose room that can be divided into two smaller rooms and a kitchen.
The building’s exterior was designed to connect the stone buildings in the Dahlgren Quadrangle and Red Square with the brick buildings, like those in Henle Village and the Leavey Center, on the north side of campus. The residence hall will also feature a varied window pattern.
“The student input, once we pulled back and took a look at what we were doing, really turned the building from being sort of a materiality that wasn’t present at Georgetown into a building that more closely relates to what we have going on. It fits into our history and also looks forward,” Ernst said.
A green terrace with concrete seat edges will lead up to the building; administrators plan to install new benches as well as movable tables and chairs.
The Northeast Triangle received OGB concept approval in March. The university will go before the OGB again in June for design-development approval.
“What we have now is a building that is very thoughtfully designed, and we’re going to begin construction there later this summer,” Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said.
If the university receives OGB approval in June, it will begin site-utility relocation later that month. Construction of the Northeast Triangle is scheduled to commence in October, after the pre-existing water and electrical utilities are relocated from underneath the area where the residence will be built.
“We’re trying to make sure that there are no gaps, so that once we start, it’s sequenced in a way that is logical,” Ernst said.
Satellite Residence Considered
With the Northeast Triangle set to be home to approximately 225 students, the university continued to search for additional housing options in order to comply with the 2010 Campus Plan agreement, which dictates that 385 students must be moved out of the Georgetown neighborhood’s 20007 zip code by fall 2015.
The university announced in September that a satellite undergraduate residence was under consideration, meeting immediate student opposition. In order to get students out of the immediate neighborhood, administrators considered locations such as Clarendon, Va., a site near Capitol Hill and an area north of campus on Wisconsin Avenue.
“We needed to explore all of our options at our disposal and we wanted to do our due diligence to make sure we were looking through all of the possibilities,” Olson said.
Administrators proposed busing students back and forth between the satellite residence and the main campus and dabbled in the idea of incentivizing the residence by ensuring that it was of a higher quality than on-campus dormitories.
Nevertheless, students quickly expressed their distaste for the plan. A few days after administrators announced that a satellite residence was under consideration, students launched the “One Georgetown, One Campus” campaign in order to voice opposition to the creation of any residence outside of the Georgetown neighborhood.
In addition to staging a demonstration near the front gates, the campaign’s supporters circulated a petition to bring the issue to a Georgetown University Student Association referendum in order to gauge student opinion and communicate with the administration.
“We kept the lines of communication open, and I think [the administration] really understood and respected that our passion was coming from a place of really caring about Georgetown,” former GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) said.
The petition received 412 signatures, exceeding the 300 signatures necessary to create a GUSA referendum.
At the end of September, 2,746 out of 2,966 students voted against the creation of a satellite residence. Just 7 percent of voters indicated that they were in favor of university housing outside of the Georgetown neighborhood.
“I think very quickly [the administration] saw that it wasn’t just one or two GUSA representatives who were upset about [the satellite residency],” Tisa said. “It very quickly became clear that a cross section of campus organizations were pretty miffed about it for various reasons.”
Housed in History
Influenced by the outcome of the referendum, administrators announced in November that a satellite residence was off the table. Instead, Ryan and Mulledy Halls, the former Jesuit residence in Dahlgren Quadrangle, will be converted into student housing to bring approximately 160 new beds to campus.
“We listened in a very serious way to student input and student views on this,” Olson said.
Although originally considered as a temporary solution to meeting the housing requirement, Ryan and Mulledy will be made into a long-term student residence.
“There were a lot of conversations among administrators and involving students as part of the process, as well, to just look creatively at all of the options on campus, and after careful review we determined that [Ryan and Mulledy] was a promising opportunity to pursue,” Olson said.
Once it is converted, the residence will consist of primarily suite-style rooms, which will include private bathrooms and living areas in addition to bedrooms. Because of the buildings’ structural constraints, there will also be a small number of semi-suites, like those in Copley Hall, which will not include private living areas. Architects from Ayers Saint Gross are working to maintain certain aspects of the buildings’ design, such as the large windows and the high ceilings.
Additionally, spaces such as the buildings’ chapel and the old Jesuit dining room, which will be made into a common gathering space, will be preserved because of their historical significance.
“We’ve worked hard to involve our Jesuit community in the planning because of the historic ties and nature of the building, and their perspectives have enriched the project,” Olson said.
The first stages of the construction process will commence next month, and the conversion is expected to be finished by fall 2015.
Along with construction and campus plan changes, the 2013-2014 academic year also saw revisions to the university’s housing policy for third-year students and those studying abroad.
On Jan. 16, the Office of Residential Living announced that beginning with the Class of 2016, students studying abroad in the fall semester would have to renounce both their eligibility and place in the housing lottery for the coming semester. Student response was swift, with a GUSA resolution challenging the policy and the subsequent creation of a Facebook page, “Students Against Restrictive Housing,” that garnered over 700 likes in two weeks. On Feb. 11, Residential Living announced that it intended to maintain the policy but that it would postpone its implementation until fall 2015.
Another policy change came from students, rather than the administration. In November, GUSA announced the creation of “What’s a Hoya?” to tie housing points for freshmen to attendance of seminars on issues such as diversity and sexual assault.
The past semester also brought policy changes to help meet the campus plan’s stipulation that the university house an additional 385 students on campus by fall 2015. Other measures taken throughout the year, like converting more Southwest Quad rooms into triples, also worked toward this goal.
In an email to the Georgetown community Wednesday, Olson announced that, beginning with the Class of 2017, students would be required to live in university housing for three years, with exceptions for transfer students and students who study abroad.
Delays Spur Quick Fixes
While plans for the conversion of the old Jesuit residence were underway, the advancement of the Northeast Triangle lagged. The new residence, which was originally scheduled to open in fall 2015, is now not expected to be complete until fall 2016 because of delays in the approvals process.
In order to meet the fall 2015 deadline, the university would have had to receive OGB concept approval when it initially went before the board last June.
“We would have had to go through the process in a more orderly fashion in June to get the approvals at the points in time that we needed the approvals in order to meet the fall 2015 deadline,” Ernst said. “The decision that was made was the right decision, and that was not to force a design through that didn’t have universal buy-in.”
By extending the design process to incorporate feedback from students, alumni and the OGB, administrators prolonged the approvals process. Despite the delay, administrators said that they do not doubt that they made the right decision.
“We wanted to move forward very enthusiastically on that project once we identified the site,” Olson said. “We know that there were some questions about the appearance of the building — how well it fits with the character of the campus — that we wanted to take seriously and so we think it was a very reasonable pause to make sure we were listening to all of the voices, taking student and alumni feedback seriously, taking seriously feedback from the Old Georgetown Board as they reviewed the project and making sure that the project made sense to all the key stakeholders.”
In light of this delay, administrators reconsidered converting the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center into student housing. The hotel had previously been reviewed as a potential housing option in 2012, but administrators ruled out the idea because of the revenue loss that would result from losing the hotel space.
Administrators announced in December that two of the hotel’s four floors would be converted to house 120 students for the 2015-2016 school year. By maintaining half of the hotel space, revenue loss will be minimized. Few details about the temporary conversion have been determined.
In order to add 385 beds to campus, administrators are also considering modifying existing space in residence halls such as LXR, Village C East and the Southwest Quad to include additional dorms.
“We’re looking at both hotel space and space in existing residence halls, and that’s a process we’re committed to following through on,” Olson said. “It’s earlier in that design process.”
While administrators must try to make the most of pre-existing spaces in order to comply with the campus plan because of delays with the Northeast Triangle, Olson said that the university was prepared to deal with such setbacks.
“In general, on our very compact urban campus, any new project like this is going to have a set of challenges that go with figuring out how to do this project in a way that meets our programmatic needs, that respects the historic nature of our campus and that takes the needs of all of the stakeholders involved seriously,” Olson said. “There’s not any capital project that we’ll do on this campus that is simple, and that’s without those issues to think through, so I think that the issues we faced were to be expected in our environment here.”