As part of an effort to modernize freshman residence halls, East Campus will be home to 12 dormitories instead of 14 by January 2018.
A new residence hall will be built close to Bell Tower residence hall and will house 250 students—making it the largest freshman dorm on East. The new dorm will serve as a single residence hall to replace Epworth, Jarvis and East Residence Hall altogether. After determining that the combined costs to renovate the three dorms would be approximately the same as constructing a new residence hall, the new project was conceived, explained Rick Johnson, associate vice president of student affairs for Housing, Dining and Residence Life.
Construction on the new residence hall—which is expected to cost $25 million—is set to begin in August.
“All three are some of the oldest residence halls on campus and have been identified for renovation,” Johnson said. “It was going to take tens of millions of dollars to renovate those buildings. I think Duke made the right decision in building new versus renovating old.”
The currently unnamed residence hall will be constructed to resemble Bell Tower with its large individual rooms and central air conditioning. Johnson also said that the preliminary plans for the building included “nook” spaces for students to hang out, adding that HDRL will receive student feedback about potential amenities for the dorm.
“We are looking for something that would be unique, exciting or different,” Johnson said.
Some students who have lived in East Residence Hall, Epworth and Jarvis—three of the smallest and oldest dorms on East Campus—noted that a new residence hall will enhance the first-year living experience.
“When I lived [in East Residence Hall] two years ago, it was falling apart. The kitchen was awful, there was no AC, there were cockroaches by the bunches and there was a serious dust problem,” junior Kristen Slappey said. “Though I loved the atmosphere of having a smaller dorm that promotes making friends, the incoming Duke classes will definitely benefit from the new dorm.”
Although students appreciate the effort to modernize, they also maintain that the small size of these residence halls helped forge a strong community.
“My heart will always have a special place carved out for my Epworth family,” sophomore Maddie Thornton said. “Some people criticize Epworth for its small size, but its size was what allowed us to create such a unique, close-knit dorm community.”
In response to student concerns, Johnson promised that creating community in the new dorm will be a priority.
“For us and for our tradition it’s a relatively large residence hall,” Johnson said. “We still believe that if we put some intentionality behind it we can design it in a certain way to create that community and that opportunity for community.”
Johnson added that the future of the three dorms that will be replaced by the new residence hall remains uncertain, but the trio will continue to house freshmen for at least the next two incoming classes. He also said that he was unsure when the first freshman class would move into the new residence hall.
The new construction project may also coincide with another major housing project—the renovations of Craven and Crowell Quadrangles on West Campus. After the two projects are completed, every residence hall on campus will have been renovated within a span of 10 years, Johnson noted.
“We’ve recognized the need for a long time, but what we’ve done in the last five years is really focus on renovating and bringing the buildings up to code and up to speed,” Johnson said. “[HDRL] said that we must improve these residences—we probably went 20 years without renovating—and this was the time we really needed to do it.”
Other than the newly-conceived project, Bell Tower was the most recent dorm constructed on East Campus—completed in 2005 and first open to the Class of 2009.
Summer renovations to other campus residences have already been announced, including renovations to Giles residence hall on East Campus and Wannamaker Quadrangle on West Campus. Johnson previously told The Chronicle that it was HDRL’s goal to renovate every residence hall on East Campus by Fall 2018.