Grand renovations planned for Kirk, summer housing relocated to Dupre

In an email sent to students earlier this month, Macalester’s Department of Residential Life laid out the temporary changes that will affect all students who are planning to live on campus this summer.

Kirk Hall, which Director of Residential Life Coco Du said has been used as summer housing for the last decade, will be closed and undergoing extensive renovations, and Dupre Hall will serve as on-campus student housing for the summer of 2016.

Although this change in dorm may have come as a surprise to many Macalester students, it is something that Residential Life and Facilities Services have had in the works for years already.

“We have developed a 10-year campus capital plan that address building maintenance and renewal,” said Facilities Services director Nathan Lief. “The residence halls are freshened up approximately every 10 to 12 years, depending on condition, and we budget accordingly.”

Student feedback garnered from Residential Life surveys was taken into consideration for the planned renovation, and Du said that the time had come for Kirk to get some much needed TLC.

“In collaboration with Facilities, we determined that Kirk Hall really needed a summer offline to give it the attention it deserves to continue to serve student needs,” Du said.
Scheduling a summer without Kirk was no simple task, as Facilities and Residential Life had to coordinate new plans and schedules, request gather funding from the college and decide on the extent of the renovations.

“Kirk is scheduled to get new carpet and paint this summer, and we are constantly cycling furniture in and out of the residential halls as items need to be repaired or replaced. We have reupholstered a lot of Kirk’s furniture over the past couple of years,” Lief said.
However, the renovation is not being coordinated solely through Residential Life and Facilities.

“We are also in collaboration with Student Affairs, who has been working with a residential hall consultant. The consultants are designers and professionals who understand how to make a living space that fosters learning, relationships and community building. This consultant will be involved with working with all of us to identify things like what color paint and kind of carpet we want, what we want the two kitchens to look like in Kirk, and more,” Du said.

During the work with the outside consultant, the college will take a look at every space in Kirk, which may include the renovation of both kitchens.

“We have developed project scopes and estimate to renovate the kitchens – but it remains to be seen whether funding for this project will be available – during the summer of 2016,” Lief said.

Kirk, which was constructed in 1926, does not have elevator access to upper floors in any of its nine separate sections. At this time, there are no plans to modify this arrangement, due to spatial constraints.

Adding elevators “is not a part of the project that will be happening this summer. Adding elevators to Kirk would be very difficult due to the way the building is laid out. However, there are currently fully compliant ADA rooms on the first floor of Kirk Hall,” Lief said.
Taking Kirk offline for a summer was not an easy task for ResLife, and neither was deciding where to move 2016 summer housing.

“We wanted to make sure that we shifted summer housing to a place that has had work done on it recently, and we have done some invisible work to the backbone of Dupre in the last couple years. We replaced the roof two summers ago, and put in a new boiler and hot water heater last year,” Du said.

The entirety of the dorm will become summer housing, a decision that was made because of the lack of work being done on the building this summer though Facilities will be working swiftly to ensure that rooms are ready for both summer housing and preseason residents.

“We have a pretty tight timeline to transition Dupre into a summer hall and out of a summer hall. We will have to transfer immediately back into repossession, and there is little time to get it back into preseason. The custodians will be on campus to run a 24-hour shift to get Dupre transitioned on the front and back end,” Du said.

The email to students about summer housing in Dupre also stated that summer residents may have multiple roommates over the course of the summer. Students will not be placed into singles unless they request one due to medical needs.

“Most of Dupre is double occupancy, and we had to think about how to best utilize our resources, with a tight timeline, and the need to clean hundreds of rooms, that impacts both ends. We had to think about how to utilize the resources at hand where they matter, and we also thought about safety,” Du said.

The safety aspect of summer housing is another key facet of Residential Life’s management of summer housing.

“We want to have a summer hall that is thriving and safe, instead of having people everywhere in the largest possible area. I understand that students want to have their own room and be away from others in a quiet corner, but we need to assign rooms in a way that is effective with our resources, our safety standards and staff support,” Du said.

The number of students living in summer housing fluctuates during the course of the summer, usually ranging from 75 to 130 students at the peak time in summer. The overall number of students who do elect to live on campus during the summer has been gradually expanding.
“Another trend is that there are more and more students staying on campus for summer housing, or that could be enrolled in it through a program. We will have to wait until applications open in late spring to see how many people we have,” Du said.

On the whole, though, Du is confident that the temporary switch to summer housing in Dupre and Kirk renovation will be a successful and positive experience.

“It is an exciting time for Kirk to get some much-needed attention, and we look forward to serving students and do the best we can with Dupre. It’s a different building, and we are trying to be effective by utilizing the layout and existing resources, and most importantly maintain the personal safety of students, which is always our top priority,” Du said. “Several mechanical fixes have been done [in Dupre] the last couple years; it’s large, safe and secure, and we have full confidence in the running of the building.”

Student voices

Macalester students, especially those who have previously lived in Dupre, Kirk or both, have reacted to the email from Residential Life in a variety of ways — but the overarching theme appears to be that of worry about living in Dupre during the summer, with a roommate, and without the perceived amenities of other student dormitories.

William Theriac ’16 believes that the high summer heat will be a hassle for students to stand.

“Dupre is one of the warmer dorms — anyone who has worked or lived there at the end of the summer knows how unbearable the upper floors can get even at night. My fear, especially as a Southerner, would be that it would be physically unsafe to house students over the entirety of the summer in a building that is poorly ventilated, cramped and hard to keep cool,” Theriac said.

Other students, including one who is living on campus this summer for certain, are generally concerned about having a roommate or the general living situation in the dorm.

“I’m planning on staying on campus over the summer, and I knew that the school provided housing in one of the dorms, usually Kirk. So I wasn’t really concerned about what my room was going to be like. But when they announced they were switching to Dupre, I was really disappointed,” Sarah Kraatz ’18 said. “There are no sinks in the rooms, the rooms are small, and there’s virtually no airflow, which is important in the summer without AC. So now I’m expecting to be a little less than happy with my living arrangements this summer, which is unfortunate.”

No students will be placed in singles in Dupre, per the Residential Life email, and of this decision, Farah Haddad ’17 said, “I don’t mind living in Dupre, but I have difficulties sleeping sometimes and having a roommate exacerbates that.”

Other Housing Renovation Updates:

A partial renovation of the Stadium (Veggie Coop) will be performed this summer. The building is more than 50 years old and in need of some major repairs, updates, and improvements. The renovation will include:

-The replacement of mechanical systems that are beyond their useful lives

-Improving accessibility and in general, bringing the facility up to code