Brace Commons will re-open in winter term

by Rachel Pakianathan | 9/29/17 2:05am

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Brace Commons will be undergoing repairs and renovations after experiencing extreme water damage in July.

by Adrian Russian / The Dartmouth

Brace Commons, the common area space for the East Wheelock residential community, has been closed since mid-July due to water damage caused by heavy summer rainstorms. The snack bar and bathrooms are currently open to students, but the kitchen and main common area are scheduled to re-open only at the start of the winter term.

Director of residential operations Cathy Henault said excess water from several heavy storms flooded the drains in the East Wheelock cluster and subsequently backed up into both the upper and lower levels of Brace Commons.

Henault added that the flooding in Brace Commons is not a first-time occurrence, but it is the first instance that has required serious renovation.

“This particular time, we had water in there like I have never seen before,” Henault said. “We used to call it a ‘once-every-hundred-year-flood’ that would give us the water going into [Brace Commons], but the last couple years we’ve seen it go in about three times a year.”

According to Henault, Brace Commons’ location leaves it more vulnerable to flooding than other areas of campus.

She explained that at the corner of North Park and East Wheelock, water would come up through the manholes because the drains down to the town roads were not large enough to support the water from heavy rain. Following the storms, Brace Commons was immediately closed for renovation.

East Wheelock house professor Sergi Elizalde said that Brace Commons formerly housed large-scale community events, and its closure has required the house to look for alternative venues.

Upcoming performances from the Blue Tango Project and a Nicaraguan dance company will now take place in Sarner Underground and House Center A, respectively, according to Elizalde.

“We keep having activities as usual, it’s just more inconvenient because we first have to find a space that is available, and then we have to figure out an unfamiliar sound system, all of which takes time,” he said.

Aside from being a large community space, Brace Commons provided East Wheelock students access to a full kitchen, a snack bar, a TV room and a variety of small meeting rooms.

“It’s a nice space to build community, even outside of the regularly scheduled events,” Elizalde said. “It’s like a meeting point, and everybody passes through that space when they go to their dorms, so they get to meet people. It looks a little sad now.”

East Wheelock resident Jade Bravo ’20 said Brace Commons was useful while it was open, but its current construction has only been a minor inconvenience.

“I mainly used [Brace Commons] as a study space,” Bravo said. “I’d eat a little bit at the snack bar after practice or just when I was waiting for my laundry. [The construction] isn’t too bad. I have been hearing construction some days in the morning, which isn’t the most pleasant thing to wake up to, but it’s there and there isn’t much you can do about it.”

James Hur ’18 added that the construction has led him and his friends to explore other spaces in East Wheelock.

“Ideally it would be nice to use [Brace Commons], but my friends and I have made do by hanging out in the McCulloch common areas,” he said.

Henault said the plan to renovate Brace Commons includes restructuring to shift the common room onto one plane and opening up the kitchen. She added that she plans to hire outside consultants to try to mitigate future flooding to Brace, as it is not possible to fix the drainage problem directly.

Elizalde said that he was looking forward to using Brace Commons once again for winter term, when the renovation is scheduled to be complete.

“We’ve been unlucky, first Morton burnt and was offline for a whole year, and now that Morton is fixed, Brace Commons is flooded,” Elizalde said. “It’s been hard not having all of East Wheelock functioning at the same time.”