Ayers Saint Gross Architects (ASG) introduced their initial design for the downtown student complex and further intrigued students in a joint presentation with the Student Government Association (SGA). On Wednesday, Feb. 15, SGA hosted a lunchtime event in Page Commons to highlight ideas for the downtown dorm, set to open in Fall of 2018.
During the first half of the presentation, the design committee described the plans for the dormitory. The building will be five stories and located in what is now the Concourse parking lot, close to many downtown shops and restaurants. The top four levels will house apartments, complete with a kitchen, a living space, and 4-6 single bedrooms designed to be large enough to comfortably hold the full size beds supplied for each student. The first floor will have common spaces for students, professors, and members of the larger Waterville community to use. The plans for the downtown dormitory are part of Colby’s larger initiative to help revitalize the downtown, making Main Street a commercial and social gathering space for the community.
The architecture and design of the first floor will tie in civic engagement with the living space. “Students who live in this building will be engaged in a program of civic engagement to help support local organizations, many of which rely on Colby students to fulfill their mission, and the faculty and staff in this building will help to develop and support this program of civic engagement,” Brian Clark, Vice President of Planning, explained. A room dedicated to civic engagement on the ground level will be a place for club meetings and city events. The ground level will also have retail space.
“Feedback from students on desired retail has helped to inform the layout of the ground floor retail spaces to allow the College to recruit those businesses that students most want to see downtown,” Clark said, emphasizing the role of student input in the plans. Architect Cooper Mellton echoed Clark’s remarks, adding that “the architecture and design decisions we have made really advance the goal of connecting Colby with the civic community.”
During the second half of the presentation, attendees were invited to look at potential plans for the lounge and activity space. Each guest was given a pad of green, yellow, and red dot stickers, and instructed to place green stickers on the floor designs they liked best and red ones on designs that they did not like. The potential room designs were displayed on large posters at the back of the room. Attendees preferred the “active lounge” design over the “media lounge” option. The active lounges feature game tables, arm chairs for work, and a laptop bar, whereas the media lounges design were less social, primarily featuring tables surrounded by chairs. The common areas — located primarily in the corners of each residential floor — have floor to ceiling windows that will make great use of natural lighting. “We intended for this to be an interactive, informative gathering, where students really have the opportunity to be part of the process,” SGA President, Matt Hawkins ’17, said about the goal of the lunchtime talk.
In addition to retail space, a room devoted to civic engagement and plenty of lively common areas, the residential hall will also have its own fitness center. Drawings of the fitness center showed large windows and open space with state-of-the-art athletic training equipment including treadmills, bikes, and weight-lifting equipment. At the presentation, students expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of a living space with a fitness area/center, as no other dormitory on campus offers such a combination.
Some students, though, are apprehensive about the downtown dorm. Helen Chavey ’19 expressed concern about the new living option, saying, “I’m worried that it might be difficult to keep the downtown space connected to campus and feasible for students without cars. I also wonder if the civic engagement piece will work to attract a specific slice of the student body and separate social groups even more here on campus.”
Luckily, students with similar thoughts and concerns will have another opportunity to offer input on the dormitory next Thursday in Pulver Pavilion, where SGA is planning on hosting a second event.