College moves closer to construction's start

by Mark Henle | 10/18/04 5:00am

If current schedules remain intact, Dartmouth will have just completed construction on several new buildings when the Class of 2010 arrives in Hanover.

The David T. McLaughlin '54 cluster and a residence hall planned on Tuck Mall will add roughly 500 new beds, easing the fall housing crunch; and the construction of the Kemeny and Haldeman buildings will pave the way for the eventual demolition of the unsightly Gerry and Bradley buildings, commonly referred to as the "shower towers."

Construction on the McLaughlin cluster could begin as soon as the end of Fall term, according to Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman. The building has been heavily delayed by opposition from Rope Ferry Road residents and is still open to another round of appeals until Nov. 25. After this date, town officials or a company subcontracted by the town will have 60 days to begin examining the blueprints of the project in minute detail.

Given the complexity of the project, Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman predicted that town officials would have several questions and concerns about the details of the plan.

"Anything that isn't correct, the permitting officer can return to us, and then the clock starts ticking from 60 days again," Redman said.

In response to the College's planned fall 2006 completion date, Redman responded that it was "certainly a possibility," but expressed skepticism with winter approaching.

"If we could have started this month it would have made more sense," Redman said.

Redman was more optimistic about the timetable for the smaller Tuck Mall residence hall, which because of its size, should also be completed by the fall of 2006. The building still needs to move through the zoning and planning boards, which require two weeks each. However, because the dorm does not have any non-Dartmouth neighbors, Redman does not anticipate the public outcry that accompanied the McLaughlin cluster's passage last spring. Not only did Dartmouth and residents hold lengthy discussions over the cluster's size, but both sides eventually appealed the decision handed down by the zoning board.

The McLaughlin and Tuck Mall residence halls will add 340 and 162 beds respectively to the current residence halls' capacity of 3,300. The added capacity should alleviate the fall housing shortage, which was especially acute this year. As of late August, 85 to 90 students were still without room assignments, causing many to call residence hall lounges home when they arrived on campus.

The housing shortage has not yet been resolved because of the endowment's poor performance in recent years, according to College President James Wright. However, Wright has vowed to make this problem a focus of his administration.

"It's my goal that this ceases to be a problem," Wright said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Despite the possible excess capacity provided by the dorms, Wright said that increasing the size of Dartmouth's incoming classes was out of the question for the time being.

"We have absolutely no plans to expand the size of the undergraduate student body," Wright said.

The third major on-campus development will be the construction of the Kemeny and Haldeman buildings, which will replace the Gerry and Bradley buildings. Kemeny will contain the math department, which is mainly housed in Bradley but has spread out to surrounding buildings. Haldeman will accommodate the Dickey Center for International Understanding, the Humanities Center, and the Ethics Institute.

While the majority of Dartmouth students agree that Gerry and Bradley are the eyesores of an otherwise attractive campus, Wright has not made their demolition and the construction of the Kemeny and Haldeman complexes a priority until recently.

"I promised Mrs. Kemeny literally on her deathbed that I was going to move this ahead -- and it's time for us to do that. It's times for us to remove Bradley and Gerry halls from the campus," Wright said.

The destruction of both buildings would likely occur within a month of the completion of Kemeny and Haldeman, according to College Provost Barry Scherr.

While funding for the operations and maintenance of the buildings is not yet in place, the administration felt that it had sufficient funding in place to move ahead, Scherr said.

Scherr also conceded that the McLaughlin and Tuck Mall facilities were not yet fully funded but said that the administration felt that it was ready to start construction.

The funding of the buildings therefore hinges on the success of Dartmouth's current capital campaign. The campaign, which is set to begin Nov. 13, is aimed at raising $1.3 billion to improve student life. If the College meets this goal, it will have significant cash reserves and three new complexes for future generations of Dartmouth students.

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