Covenant Hall begins construction ahead of schedule

Georgia Lodewyk – Staff Writer

After residents of Covenant Hall returned from Spring Break, they witnessed a number of changes within their dormitory: orange caution tape wrapped its way around the south exterior, piles of dirt and concrete covered the lawn, and the basement lounge had been boarded off with planks of wood.

The university will renovate the basement to accommodate next year’s freshman class, excavating the area to add an additional eight dorm rooms and remodel the lounge to include additional seating.

“When the building was built many years ago, it was built with 50 percent private space and 50 percent public space. That number is very unusual,” Robert Taylor, Dean of Students, said. “There’s a lot of unused areas. And as we’re starting to really fill up on capacity, we saw it as an opportunity to add to housing in a cost-effective way.”

Photo Credit: Sam Landstra

In previous years, the basement’s south wing held classrooms, study rooms, and Campus Health. Now unused, the renovations will reinvent these rooms to house students.

“They will fill quickly because they’ll be really, really nice,” Taylor said

Taylor also acknowledged concerns regarding the basement’s function as a living space: “From day one, it was, ‘This has to not feel like you’re in a basement or else we’re not doing it.’”

Though the dorms will possess the same square footage as the other dorms in Covenant Hall, taller ceilings, larger windows, and grey, tiled floor will accent the rooms. 

In addition, a retaining wall will allow residents to see the outdoors from their rooms.

Despite this construction, the basement’s north wing will remain unchanged, including the laundry room, study room, and practice rooms.

While the university planned to break ground at the end of May, West Branch Construction began earlier to use cement walls, rather than sheetrock, in between dorms. Currently, they are installing new cement walls and windows. 

Now, on a typical weekday, residents can hear the noise from the renovations as early as 7:30. The smells and fumes often waft to the other wings on the building’s south side of the building. 

Covenant Hall residents have learned to live with the inconvenience, and many hope the renovations will be worthwhile.

“I would rather have construction happening now than get to the coming years and not have enough [dorms],” Sofia Bouma, a Resident Assistant in Covenant Hall, said. “I’m excited for the new Covey addition… as an RA, I don’t see how the addition of another wing could be a bad thing.”

The extra sixteen beds, in part, address the university’s housing shortage, but Taylor doesn’t know if the renovations will be a long-term solution.

“A lot of schools are losing enrollment. And we don’t want to assume we’re just going to keep growing,” Taylor said. “If you build a building, you have to fill it or you’re in financial trouble,”

The renovations are scheduled to finish by mid-August.

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