The Ohio State South Campus residence hall renovations may be complete, but there were bumps along the road and some residents are still not fully satisfied.
Ohio State’s $171 million South Campus High Rise Renovation and Addition Project concluded at the beginning of this semester when students moved into Smith-Steeb and Siebert residence halls for the first time since the renovations.
The project came with unforeseen challenges, including a September 2012 water main break that displaced residents for three days less than one month after Park-Stradley Hall reopened for the start of the 2012-2013 school year as the first of three residence halls to open as part of the two-phase project, which began in 2010.
Park, Stradley, Smith and Steeb halls were separate buildings prior to the project, but additions were added between Park and Stradley halls and between Smith and Steeb halls as part of the renovation process.
The project was split into two phases: Park-Stradley’s reopening in 2012 and this year’s reopening of Smith-Steeb and Siebert.
Many Smith-Steeb residents said they are happy to live in a renovated hall on campus, and some said Smith-Steeb is nicer than the older dorms they have visited.
“Compared to all the other residence halls that I’ve seen from my friends, I love it here,” said Brandon Cruz, a first-year in political science. “It’s a lot better, more conducive to learning.”
Daniel Hwang, a first-year in business, said Smith-Steeb “feels like a hotel.”
“I love it here, because everything’s so much newer,” Hwang said.
However, there are some issues in the new residence halls Smith-Steeb residents noted. Multiple students said they have been unsatisfied with the residence hall’s elevators.
“They seem to always be broken,” said Brett Kohlmayer, a second-year in accounting.
OSU representatives were not able to immediately comment on the state of the elevators late Thursday afternoon.
Hwang said it’s good the dorms are fully air conditioned following the renovations, but said it can make the residence hall cold because the air conditioning runs throughout the day.
Before the renovations were completed, incidents like the Park-Stradley water main break provided additional challenges and costs for OSU.
Lindsay Komlanc, OSU spokeswoman for Administration and Planning, said the water main break did not impact construction on Smith-Steeb and Siebert because the water main already existed prior to the project, and because Smith-Steeb was “in a phase of construction where the building had largely been stripped of old equipment and amenities and new renovation work had not yet begun” at the time of the break.
The water main break did not increase the budget or delay the construction of Smith-Steeb, Office of Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said. Komlanc said the water main break has cost the university “about $3 million,” but added that figure is not final. She said OSU is working to recover those costs through the university’s insurance carriers.
The exact costs of the Smith-Steeb construction versus Park-Stradley have not been determined, Komlanc and Isaacs said.
“The specific work needed for the renovation of each building was slightly different, so you really can’t compare the cost of Park-Stradley renovations to the cost of Smith-Steeb renovations,” Komlanc said.
Komlanc said the project costs were not split between buildings, but “phased and bid in different packages that matched up different pieces” of the construction. The entire project fell under the umbrella of the $171 million budget, rather than being split up by residence hall, Komlanc said.
One change made to Park-Stradley was the removal of the exterior doors to the bathrooms between the fall and spring semesters last year. This change, however, was not applied to the construction of Smith-Steeb.
Komlanc said Smith-Steeb has exterior doors due to “fire code regulations,” but said the doors remain open at all times except when a fire alarm is set off.
The doors were removed after multiple sex crimes were reported in Park-Stradley during Autumn Semester 2012. Although Isaacs told The Lantern in January there was no direct line between the sex crimes and doors’ removal, he also said at the time they were removed due to feedback from Park-Stradley residents who said they would “feel more secure if there was no divider between the hallways and (the bathrooms).”
As for changes made to Smith-Steeb, Komlanc said the renovations were “slightly different” than Park-Stradley.
“They weren’t exact replicas of each other, so to be able to complete the renovations and some of the infrastructure work as well as the connections, because we were connecting two different buildings, there was just slightly different scope needed for each of those things,” Komlanc said.
Isaacs said some changes were made to Smith-Steeb because of feedback received from Park-Stradley students, including the addition of video monitors to present residence hall news inside the lobbies of Smith-Steeb and Siebert.
“The feedback we got from students was (the video monitors are) a good way for them to get information,” Isaacs said. “They weren’t as crazy about tacking posters up in the hallway or a bulletin board or that sort of thing.”
Molly Ranz Calhoun, associate vice president for Student Life, said student input plays an “extremely important” role in changes and additions that are made to residence halls.
“We talk to residents in new buildings to see which features or furniture they prefer and why,” Calhoun said in an email. “We are constantly looking to learn, and we do learn a great deal, from building project to building project. In many cases, as we see how products look or wear, we make different decisions on the next construction.”
Isaacs said the university has not collected much feedback from Smith-Steeb residents yet because they are still “getting comfortable in the building and figuring it all out,” but said their feedback will be considered as OSU begins its next housing project, the North Residential District Transformation.
Major construction for the $370 million North Campus housing project is scheduled to begin in Spring 2014, according to a Student Life website. The project is scheduled for completion in Fall Semester 2016, coinciding with when the requirement for second-year students to live on campus will begin.