Edens Quadrangle has traditionally had the reputation of being among the least desirable housing options on West Campus—but with a renovation project this summer, Duke hopes to change the dorm's reputation.
Generally overlooked for its position on the edge of campus and lack of aesthetic appeal compared to other dorms, Edens has struggled to attract students in the new housing model. Beginning this May, the Housing, Dining and Residence Life staff will undertake a project to improve the dorm and its sense of community.
"We are all really excited about the potential of this project," Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez said. "We will be able to offer students some nice changes.... Over the years, there has been student unhappiness with Edens, and we want to change that.”
The HDRL team is calling the program the Edens beautification project, set to begin after Commencement in 2015. A number of improvements—including more amenities in common rooms, renovated kitchens and laundry rooms and better landscaping —will be made to increase resident satisfaction.
Current residents agree that the dorm leaves something to be desired.
When sophomore Gopi Neppala was assigned to Edens at the end of last year, he and his housing block tried switching into a Central Campus apartment instead.
“Before I moved in, I was kind of sad I had to live there, because I had heard that it was extremely far away, the halls were tiny, and that it was a lonely place to live," Neppala said.
In addition to being further from the heart of West Campus than all other dorms, Edens has smaller rooms. A 2006 Chronicle analysis of HDRL floor plans found that the average room size of an Edens double is about 170 square feet, compared to the 220 square feet of an average double in Crowell or Keohane Quadrangles.
The renovations are set to finish by late August, in time for the incoming residents next Fall, who will be able to fully enjoy the newly renovated dorms. Some current residents have told HDRL that depending on the finished result, they would consider living in Edens again next year through the right of return granted to all students, Gonzalez said.
"The work done this summer hopefully will be a chance to enhance the place and raise the right of return rate here," he said.
Right of return—the ability for students to choose to return to their independent houses for a second or third year—was created with the new house model in 2012. Although the number of students exercising right of return for independent housing rose significantly in the past year, right of return use in Edens has decreased.
From Spring 2013 to Spring 2014, the total number of students who exercised right of return jumped from 531 to 785—while the right of return rate for Edens independent housing dropped by 2 students, Gonzalez said.
One small step has already been taken to make the quad more desirable—larger beds. Instead of the standard twin extra-long bed, students in Edens now sleep in double beds.
"We have received feedback from students over the years that larger beds were desirable," Gonzalez wrote in an email Wednesday. "The rooms in Edens are well sized for this type of room furnishing so we solicited input from students.... Strong interest was shown in having the larger beds so we moved forward with the change."
Sophomore David Ling, an Edens resident, expressed appreciation for the project.
“I think it’s great that HDRL cares about Edens and wants to make it more appealing for students. With some changes, I can definitely see Edens becoming a more desirable dorm to live in," Ling said. "HDRL is going in the right direction with things like bigger beds, but I think to make Edens on par with Keohane, it will require a major revamp. Bigger rooms, suites, maybe even another eating place close by other than Cafe Edens.”