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$171M dorm renovation continues to rise

Emily Tara / Lantern photographer

The three-year South Campus High Rise Renovation, costing $171 million, will continue construction throughout this year and into next, causing both relief and frustration for students.

Park Hall and Stradley Hall are scheduled to be complete by May 2012 of this year, said Scott Conlon, director or projects.

After students move out of Steeb Hall, Smith Hall and Siebert Hall in June 2012, construction will begin on these residences, which will be closed for the 2012-2013 academic year.

The late-night construction is something students have found to be their biggest issue.

Chris Isaac, a first-year in biology who lives in Smith Hall, said sounds of a jack hammer working on surrounding buildings sometimes wake him up at 4:30 a.m.

“Some days I don’t have class until 2:30 and it’s just annoying,” Isaac said.

Although Issac said he feels the updates are necessary, he is not sure he would have picked to live on south campus had he known construction would be like this.

“One of the advantages we’ll have (next year) is that we’ll be adding buildings as well,” said Fred Fotis, assistant vice president for the Office of Student Life. “When we shut down the (next three buildings) to do the renovations at the same time, we’ll have new beds in the connector buildings and we’ll have (dorms) from the Hall Complex.”

The connectors between Park Hall and Stradley Hall, which will be open for the 2012-2013 academic year as well, will create an additional 180 beds, The Lantern reported in October 2010.

By adding connections between the buildings on south campus, housing felt they could add more beds and lounge space, Fotis said.

Park and Stradley, formerly freshman-only dorms, might now house second-year students also, Fotis said. He also said that moving learning communities is also under discussion. A decision will be made once the buildings are complete.

“The buildings were built in the 1960s and hadn’t really gone through any kind of renovation since then,” Fotis said. “We knew that in the transition to semesters, there was a need for more air-conditioned space.”

Air conditioning will be powered by the geothermal heating and cooling, which uses the “Earth as a big battery,” Conlon said.

“This is a very efficient way because you’re actually taking advantage of the geological structure,” Conlon said.

Currently, the geothermal well project on the South Oval is behind schedule and over budget. Errors in drilling and a change in contractors will cost the university money, and the geothermal project will not resume until May 2012.

Ohio State will switch to semesters starting Summer Quarter 2012. Classes for fall of 2012 will begin on Aug. 22 under semesters, instead of the late-September start under the quarter system.

The main dining hall for the high rise project is intended to be Kennedy Commons. The $12.5 million Kennedy renovation was designed to accommodate the expansion of students in the south campus area, Fotis said.

Park and Stradley will also feature a “sky lounge.” The ninth and 10th floor will have an all-window area that will allow students to see downtown Columbus and also across campus.

“The (south campus renovation) plan sort of evolved into something that was a little bigger,” Fotis said. “What was a traditional renovation turned into an extensive renovation.”

Lee Kattan, a first-year in marketing, said she thinks the aesthetics of the dorms are the worst she has seen.

“I’m comparing them to other schools that I’ve visited and the quality of these dorms are probably the lowest I’ve seen so far,” Kattan said. “I guess if I would say anything, it’s to find a better time to do construction.”

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