After years of abandonment, Dana and Gilman Halls to be renovated and repurposed

by Anthony Robles | 4/18/18 2:05am

The office of planning, design and construction is currently renovating Dana Hall and demolishing Gilman Hall, which are both located on the northern side of campus near the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center. The project’s primary intention is to combat academic overcrowding by increasing faculty office and research space at the College, according to vice president of planning, design and construction John Scherding.

While the project has been reported by Valley News to cost around $20 million, Scherding said that his office was not ready to release the costs of the project, as they are still in the estimating stage. He added that while the College is evaluating funding options for the project, decisions have not yet been finalized.

The buildings were constructed in 1963 and have remained unoccupied for several years. Gilman, the former biological sciences building, was last occupied in 2010, while Dana, the former home of the biomedical library, was last used in 2012, after which the library moved to 37 Dewey Field Road.

“Both buildings were evaluated for the feasibility of renovating, but only Dana proved to be a suitable structure for future needs,” Scherding said.

The Office of Environmental Health and Safety is required to be involved in the abatement of the buildings due to the presence of asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls in Dana and Gilman. PCBs, which are a chlorine compound, were banned in 1979 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency amidst concerns over their unintended impact on human and environmental health, while asbestos has been linked to mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, as well as other lung diseases.

In addition to the new office and research space, the renovated Dana Hall will also include a café, a graduate student lounge and a new glass facade, Scherding said.

Proposals for renovation were brought forth at a Hanover planning board meeting on Apr. 3. Due to the fact that there are there are currently no plans to erect a new building where Gilman previously stood, the project proposal for Gilman differed from that of Dana.

The Gilman proposal was for its reuse as parking spaces and professor access to Dana and down to the Life Sciences Center],” Hanover director of planning, zoning and codes director Robert Houseman said.

According to Scherding, the project commenced last November and is on track to be completed prior to the fall term of 2019. The demolition of Gilman Hall has been a two-step process, first involving the abatement period of hazardous materials and then involving the demolition of the building itself.

“There’s not much of Gilman left at this point,” Scherding said.

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that as part of the site-plan approval, the project would also require the construction of a sidewalk and retaining wall from North Park Street down the east side of College Street, an improvement that the town has been recommending to the College for several years.

“When we review plans as the planning board, we’re obviously concerned with the size of the building, but we’re typically as concerned about utility connections,” Griffin said. “We tend not to be involved in decisions about which departments Dartmouth is planning to move there and what the internal configuration of the building is.”

Griffin said that the area of campus where Dana and Gilman Halls are located has been “in flux for the last few years.” Under former College President Jim Yong Kim, a proposal was brought forward that would have replaced Gilman with a sleek and modern building, according to Griffin. However, construction on that building never occured, which she attributed to the “changing priorities of the administration” after current College President Phil Hanlon replaced Kim.

“The town is eager to see that whole area redeveloped because it’s obviously an important area of the campus,” Griffin said.