North End Housing project continues board approval process with public hearings
At a Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting on Feb. 2, town residents voiced concerns with aspects of the North End Housing project, a 397-bed complex 1.4 miles north of the Green.
On Thursday, the Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment held a public hearing to consider Dartmouth’s permit request for the North End Housing project, which has faced local opposition. Deliberations will continue on Feb. 9 with a peer review of the project by a third-party engineering firm, according to the College’s project management services senior director Patrick O’Hern. If the project receives approval, it will go on to the Hanover Planning Board, and O’Hern said he expects the zoning board process to finish by the end of February.
According to O’Hern, the North End Housing project will include 397 beds, kitchens in each apartment and a cafe on the first floor. Residents of the apartments, which will be situated north of campus one and a half miles from the Green, will access campus with a shuttle bus, according to the Dartmouth website. Initially, the space will house undergraduate students while older undergraduate residences are renovated — including the Fayerweather Halls, Massachusetts Row, the Choates residential cluster and potentially the River cluster, according to O’Hern. After renovations, O’Hern said the project will be converted to graduate housing.
“Personally, I’m really interested in being able to have the opportunity to update buildings that sort of have that traditional, historic campus feel but really modernize heating and air conditioning to make them comfortable and modern for Dartmouth students,” O’Hern said.
The ongoing hearings aim to determine the project’s eligibility for a special exception from the zoning board, which is required for the College to build student residences on any site within the institutional zone of Hanover. Criteria require the project to not adversely affect highways, sidewalks, town services and facilities or the “character of the area,” according to a town zoning ordinance.
Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, proponents and opponents of the project spoke, addressing questions raised in the Jan. 26 hearing and rebutting previous statements, beginning with statements from Phillip Hastings, attorney for the College.
According to Hastings, the plan originally called for 110 on-site parking spaces, but the revised request reduced the lot to 25 spaces — requiring students to use other parking facilities and ride a 53-person shuttle to and from the planned housing. Both the parking issue and the need for a shuttle faced student pushback at a September Q&A session with College administrators.
The planned shuttle model is based on operations to and from the Summit on Juniper building complex, a College residential community in Lebanon. According to Hastings, that shuttle runs seven days a week every 10 to 20 minutes between 7 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. the next morning.
Dartmouth Student Government senator Daniel Cai ’26 spoke at the meeting in approval of the project on behalf of DSG, as the DSG has surveyed students and determined that there is enough interest to fill the capacity of the new apartments.
“The student government is in full support of the project [including] after Dartmouth changed its plans to reduce the parking capacity at the North End housing project,” Cai said at the session.
Geisel School of Medicine biology professor Yashi Ahmed expressed concern over reliable shuttle service for graduate students who need it.
“They need to get into the lab. Even the existing shuttles coming from Juniper are not running on schedule and students are missing the time they’re supposed to be in labs,” she said at the meeting. “We can’t write in a thesis paper, ‘I missed that time point because the shuttle didn’t come.’”
Ahmed also said she was “confused” about the plan for where graduate students with cars could park once the residence is shifted to graduate student housing.
In addition to the shuttle service, an existing multi-use path runs along Lyme Road where students will be able to walk, bike or ride electric scooters to central campus. According to Hastings, the path will see an increase in volume but the traffic will remain “well below” the multi-use path’s capacity.
John Lubin ’84, a Lyme Road resident who grew up in his current home, said his primary concern with the project is safety. He cited an accident that occurred on the multi-use path in 2017 when a bicyclist fatally struck a 91-year-old woman.
“I can imagine that’s going to happen again. I can imagine there’s going to be a serious accident — maybe somebody getting killed, it may be a kid this time — because of a Dartmouth student zooming up or down the path,” Lubin said.
He noted the proximity of Frances C. Richmond Middle School and Bernice A. Ray Elementary School, as well as senior living facilities — including Hanover Terrace Health and Rehabilitation Center and Kendal At Hanover — to the project. All of these are on or near Lyme Road and draw young children and seniors to share the multi-use path, he said.
“There’s this northward expansion and I think a lot of people in town are tired of it,” Lubin said. “I understand growth — they’re trying to get better facilities, better athletic facilities, better science laboratories and so on. But there comes a point where it’s pushing it.”
Lubin said he was also concerned about emergency response time due to increased traffic, as the fire station also sits on Lyme Road near the proposed project site. Lyme Road was already narrowed in the past, making it more difficult for fire trucks to pass traffic, he added.
“There’s not really enough room,” he said. “Not everybody pays attention to the emergency vehicles. Then you throw in all the Dartmouth students and whether they’re driving or not, the congestion is going to be horrible.”
Lubin is a member of the Garipay Neighborhood Association, which formed in response to the College’s announcement of the North End Housing project plans, he said. The association is circulating a petition in opposition to the plan which had over 380 signatures at the end of December 2022, according to an email to the group’s mailing list.
Some commenters at the meeting raised concerns regarding the project’s status as undergraduate housing as opposed to graduate housing. Economics professor Andrew Levin noted that he anticipates students feeling isolated at the residential site in the context of the current mental health climate on campus.
“I’m very worried that four or five years from now, maybe 10, but sooner or later, there’s going to be some student who feels very isolated over there, and we’re going to have a tragedy. All of us should be really thinking hard about that right now,” he said.
Damien Jeffers ’23 said that they approved of building graduate housing on the selected site, but not undergraduate housing. Jeffers added that graduate students would not require shuttle service to the Class of ’53 Commons and other undergraduate-focused spots on campus.
“It should be apartments designed for graduate students, people who need or want to live independently, people who maybe have long-term partners living with them or … young kids,” Jeffers said.
According to the project website, “the design builds in flexibility to convert to graduate and professional student housing in the future.” The exact timing of the switch will depend on the future construction and labor economy, according to O’Hern.
According to O’Hern, the College also has to organize the labor for these renovations.
He added that accurate cost estimates for the project will not be available until the plan is more finalized.
“We have initial estimates but a lot of our design work doesn’t go to the next level until we’ve got the zoning in place and we have a site plan that’s acceptable to everyone,” he said.
Damien Jeffers is a member of The Dartmouth’s Opinion staff.
Correction appended (Feb. 7, 12:16 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that John Lubin was a member of the Class of 1981. He was a member of the Class of 1984. The article has been updated.
Correction appended (Feb. 7, 10:05 p.m.): A previous version of this article included a quote from Daniel Cai ’26 incorrectly implying that DSG supported the North End Housing project after changes to parking capacity. DSG's support was not contingent on parking capacity. The article has been updated, along with information to clarify DSG's position on the project.