New suites and singles in Roberts to be completed by 2015

The Colby community has been undergoing many changes, from the inauguration of President David A. Greene to the installation of the Davis Science Center, but the one great change that has yet to be finished is the renovation of Roberts Hall.

Set to open for students in the fall of 2015, what used to be classrooms and offices will become dormrooms and common spaces for students of all class years.

Associate Director of Campus Life and Residential Education Kim Kenniston has been involved with the renovation of this space since the beginning. “[Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life] Jed Wartman and I worked with the Physical Plant Department (PPD) before the plans were even drawn up to say what we think our students wanted on campus. So, we said suites and singles, but we knew we needed some doubles for our first year students.”

After bringing the students’ requests to the PPD board and the architects, Kenniston and Wartman waited while the architects drafted a floor plan so that the two could be sure that Roberts would live up to its potential.

“The architects took everything that we said and went back and pulled up their first version of the designs. Then we met with them, looked at them, and said, ‘I don’t like this, I don’t like that. And don’t forget about the bike room and the trunk room and all of the stuff that everybody needs,” Kenniston said.

In order to make sure that students would be happy with the new residence hall, Kenniston and Wartman welcomed student involvement into the process.

“[When] the architects brought back a second set of plans, we brought together eight to ten students and worked with [Assistant Director of Capital Planning and Construction] Kelly Doran in PPD.” Doran explained the floor plans to the students, pointing out such details as the suites and the common area spaces. “ [She] asked them, ‘Would you give up a few square feet in a common area space if it meant that we could create a bigger suite in another space?’” Kenniston said.

By involving students from different areas of campus, Kenniston, Wartman and Doran incoporated students’ voices, opinions and ideas.

Many students are wondering what the suites will include. “None of the suites have bathrooms in them, but we figured that the suites with the common area spaces in them with singles—and some have a couple doubles—was more important. And as far as I know, the last set of floor plans had both male and female bathrooms on each floor, so we weren’t as concerned with the bathroom situation because there were at least each gender bathroom on the floor.”

Although there was a rumor around campus that some of the suites would have kitchens in them, Kenniston put an end to this myth. She said, “There won’t be kitchens, no. The suites will be a very similar layout to the Mary Low-Coburn suites. So, there’s a common area, but no bathroom and no kitchen. Kitchens are difficult because of the fire codes that the state of Maine has, and so with [the Roberts Dining Hall] being right downstairs, we didn’t see as much of an issue with that.”

Many students are also wondering how many students the suites will hold. Kenniston said, “There are some suites that are as small as four people. There’s one suite, last I knew…that holds seven people. There are some four, some five, and there’s one seven because of the way that the square footage fell out. And the students on the committee thought that would be cool—that the six-person in Foss and the annex in Mary Low are super popular, so we didn’t see an issue being able to fill it.”

Although the second and third floor of Roberts will be done for the fall of 2015, the first floor will take more time to complete. “The first floor where Human Resources and Security are is still a little bit in limbo because…[we’re aren’t sure if] we are temporarily going to put them somewhere. So, I think some of that is in flux. But, they’re absolutely pounding away on the second and third floors and they’ve been doing that since the start of July,” Kenniston said.

A question floating around the College is: why is the renovation happening? Kenniston addressed this: “Long ago and far away, Roberts was a residence hall, and then it turned into [what it is now]. I wasn’t part of the planning for all of this, but I think we wanted to be able to offer students different types of housing. So, this gives us that ability and gives us the ability to find some housing that students have truly been requesting (singles and suites).”

The school has been seeing a decline in the number of people wanting to live off-campus, which was an incentive to push for the Roberts rennovation. With the completion of the Davis Science Center, the adminstration was ready to begin construction and devote energy towards Roberts.

“I’m super excited. It’s been fun and interesting to watch, and it’ll be interesting to see it play itself out as we open it…I think it’s something different.”

Roberts has higher ceilings than other dorms and also contains a dining hall, two aspects which should make it a convenient and enjoyable place for students to live.

Kenniston said, “It’s going to be new, it’s going to look great…I think either way it goes, students are going to be really excited. I think that with all of the newness that’s going on, I think this is just another piece to say, ‘We’re moving in the right direction. We hear what you’re all saying and we heard what you were hoping for and now hopefully it will come to fruition in a way that you all feel like we had you in mind from the minute we started planning.”

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