Despite a well-received pilot renovation project in Henle Village last winter break, the Office of Residential Living deferred complex-wide apartment renovations due to a lack of resources.
Residential staff had installed overhead LED lights in the living room and both bedrooms of Henle 83, the then-vacant apartment chosen for the pilot project, and updated the kitchen area with new flooring, a solid-wood cabinet and a dishwasher. However, Associate Director of Residential Services Matthew Hollingshead said there is no timeline for a complete renovation of all Henle apartments.
“That was something that we’ve talked about possibly doing in Henle in the future but there was no set plan of when that could happen. If we find the resources to do this, then we would like to do it,” Hollingshead said. The office did replace light fixtures and paint walls this summer.
Hollingshead also said that the lack of alternative residential spaces on campus poses another obstacle for a complete renovation.
“It’s also because it takes the spaces offline for the period that you are renovating them,” Hollingshead said. “We use Henle along with any other residential spaces over the summer. So we have to work with the summer programs to take the spaces offline. That’s a secondary limitation but also significant.”
According to David Lizza (COL ’15), InterHall vice president of student advocacy and a member of the Residential Living Working Group, many Henle residents have expressed their desire to see the major changes made in the pilot project adopted in their own apartments.
“The students want to see the major changes in terms of the lighting and the appliances or cabinets in the rooms because they don’t see that,” Lizza said. “The Office of Residential Living is working on that, but it’s in the back corner. They are also working on the other things such as installing the dehumidifiers and opening up the Henle community room for everyone with the Henle keys. Students don’t see the small things yet because they are experiencing them less often living in an apartment.”
Georgetown University Student Association President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) also supported a larger Henle renovation modelled upon the popular pilot to create a better living environment for juniors. After the Northeast Triangle is complete and more dorm-style options are offered on campus, more juniors, rather than sophomores, are expected to live in Henle.
“The overwhelming response is that the newly renovated Henle
apartment reflects what students want to see in that space,” Tezel said. “I hope that when we get around to this deferred maintenance project that each dorm will have the same lighting, the same usable kitchen space and the same mold prevention tools that Henle apartment has. … We want to make that a living situation that is appealing to juniors.”
Katherine Nicosia (COL ’17), a resident of the pilot Henle 83 this fall, said that she appreciates the renovation in her apartment but expected an even lower humidity level.
“It’s really unfortunate because I like how we have the setup. So if other Henles are different, this will be a disadvantage,” Nicosia said. “To be honest, if this is the nicest one there is, it’s pretty gross. We have a snake in here because of the construction. There are mice all the time. We live in the bottom and that’s pretty gross. … People have mold problems a lot.”
The Office of Residential Living launched a similar pilot program in Village B over the summer, when the Alumni Square Townhouse RHO was converted to a new Village B apartment for four people.
“We used that as an opportunity to see what a renovation in that apartment complex might look like. That included expanding the kitchen a little bit [to include] a full-sized fridge and overhead lighting,” Hollingshead said. “We try to make it updated, a better environment for students to live in.”
Tezel acknowledged the university’s legal compliance to add 385 additional beds on campus by fall 2015, but called for a closer examination of the mold.
“To a certain extent, I empathize with the position [of the Office of Residential Living], but I do think that we need to complete examining the issue of mold,” Tezel said. “And even if we don’t have a full-scale renovation of Henle as has been suggested, at the very least, we should ensure that the new dehumidifiers in each room are effectively tackling the mold problems because the health of our students needs to be the number one priority.”
Other residence halls have also experienced high levels of mold this semester. The university has received at least six complaints from residents of Village A alone in the past month.
According to Hollingshead, any possible wholesale renovation of Henle will have to be postponed for the ongoing dorm construction due to limited time and resources, though he clarified that the construction and the renovation would not compete for funds.
“Right now, we are focusing on bringing the former Jesuit Residence and the Northeast Triangle in line next fall in 2016 as well as preparing the capacity enhancement projects for our existing spaces and the Leavey Center Hotel conversion,” Hollingshead said. “We are already focusing a lot of time and resources towards those new beds that are coming online, so any sort of wholesale renovation projects are not being considered other than theoretical conversations about what we could do with Henle and Village A.”