Board votes to demolish parts of Usen Castle
Interim President Lisa Lynch announced in an email to the University community yeserday that the Usen Castle will be mostly torn down at the end of the spring 2017 semester. The space will be used to house a new residence hall for around 160 students that would “meet modern standards of student living and energy efficiency, and would be designed to allow full accessibility,” according to Lynch’s email.
The plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees, leaves Towers A and B — which includes Cholmondeley's Coffee House — standing following the completion of the project in August of 2018. Towers C, D and E and Schwartz Hall will all be torn down to make space for the new dormitory. Lynch’s email stated that Chums will likelyremain open during the interim period while the other spaces will be closed “while the university further analyzes options and possible fundraising opportunities for their future.”
In an interview with the Justice and the Brandeis Hoot, Vice President for Campus Operations Jim Gray confirmed the cost of the project will total “in the neighborhood of $37 million” and stated that he did not know whether the University would continue to use Towers A and B as an on-campus housing option after the renovations. “The hope is that we are able to preserve those [towers] and develop plans … to finance a renovation of A and B so that they might remain on campus for the long term,” he said of one potential option. “We could put 40 or so students back in towers A and B and make it part of the complex there residentially, or it's possible that we may decide it serves the University better in some other way.”
Lynch’s email outlined a timeline for the project, which begins with the Castle Advisory Group, composed of faculty, trustees, alumni, staff and students providing input on architectural plans for the new building.
The timeline for the project allows for students to live in the Castle through the end of the fall 2016 semester, after which they will be offered an alternative housing option on campus, though Gray said discussions are still ongoing concerning where they would be moved to during the spring semester of 2017. Site work is expected to begin in the spring of 2017 with Towers C, D and E and Schwartz removed the following summer. The construction of the new residence hall will last from the summer of 2017 to August of 2018, according to the timeline. “During the construction period, we will continue to guarantee campus housing to first- and second-year students,” Lynch wrote in her email.
Gray suggested that upperclassman quads may be used as guaranteed on-campus housing for underclassmen during the construction period but was unable to confirm the University’s plans. “It's not going to be freshman housing, because we're going to have that full of freshmen, so unless there's another category of housing that I come up with between now and then, it's going to squeeze out some upperclassmen housing too in order to be able to keep the commitment that we will make sure that all freshmen and sophomores have housing on campus.”
Gray explained that the decision for the new residence hall to accommodate 160 students was made to balance the affordability of the project with the necessity for more on-campus housing. He said the new residence was originally going to accommodate only 120 students to match the current space of the Castle. Gray also said that the current plan is to build dormitory-style residence halls up to modern standards, including air conditioning and elevators, though he said plans are still in their early stages. Lynch’s email also said the new building will be energy efficient, and Gray explained that energy efficiency will be a major part in the planning of the building. “We'll be designing the building to meet the [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Gold standard, at minimum.
The University is committed to building any new buildings with LEED Gold or better standards, and we'll be meeting or exceeding that with this project,” he said. “When the time comes, we will also be considering whether the building is well-suited for a solar array of panels on the roof—I don't have an answer to that yet, but I definitely want to study it before the building goes up.”
The LEED certification system is a rating system that analyzes various aspects of building design and construction, according to the LEED section of the United States Green Building Council.
Gray said the plan may not affect how many students are admitted to the 2020 midyear class, though he stressed that much may change as planning moves forward.
—Max Moran contributed reporting
A previous version of this article stated that Cholmondeley's Coffee House was located in A Tower. It is actually located in B Tower.