What’s Better Than a Café and High Def?
By Christine Dunlap
The University will break ground in January on a new residence hall on East Campus that will be the latest thing in on-campus living for UMass Lowell students.
The residence hall — it doesn’t have an official name yet — will be built on the site of the IPI building on Aiken Street, across from the Campus Recreation Center.
With student enrollment now nearing 15,000 — up 30 percent over the past three years — the demand for everything from classrooms to labs and student housing has intensified.
But having enough beds is only part of the plan.
Students today seek — and benefit from — a range of services and amenities that were unheard of in residence housing a generation ago. Larger rooms, suite-style apartments, quiet study rooms, cafes and more inspired architecture and landscaping make for a more pleasant, productive and successful college experience.
“Our vision is to increase the residential community to fifty percent while offering the ideal variety of living options in state-of-the-art facilities that can compare with the best institutions across the country,” says Dean of Students Larry Siegel.
Research shows that students who live on campus are more apt to be academically successful. Moreover, the campus community is more cohesive when a greater percentage of students are residential.
As a result, the campus has — successfully — worked to encourage students to live on campus. Currently, 40 percent of undergraduates live on campus, up from 28 percent five years ago; the goal is 50 percent.
So how will the new residence hall meet all these needs?
First, the design concept for the building and the landscaping evokes a sense of the textile and industrial histories of Lowell, and will fit gracefully into its Northern Canal neighborhood, near the former Lawrence Mills and LeLacheur Park.
The brick, U-shaped facility will be built around a courtyard that faces the Campus Recreation Center. The courtyard will feature a paved seating area that doubles as spillover space for events, as well as the traditional open lawn space.
“In planning this residence hall, the first new dormitory on campus since 1989, our goals were to provide a first-class environment for student living and learning while making a contribution to the historic district,” says Beth Rubenstein, director of Campus Planning and Development.
The residence hall will provide housing for 472 students in four- and six-bed suites. There will be a ground-floor common area with café and multi-purpose room open to the UMass Lowell community. Each residential floor will have two common kitchen/lounge areas, two quiet study rooms and a group study room.
What do the students think?
Associate Dean of Students James Kohl reports, “We met with students recently and showed them pictures of the new hall. After the first picture there was stunned silence. After the third picture you could barely hear the presenters over the students’ excited conversations. After the fifth, they were asking if they could move in that day. They loved that we created a residence hall that enhances both their academic and social experiences. What other hall offers quiet study rooms and common lounges with full kitchens and a 70-inch television with high def cable?”
The project is being managed by the UMass Building Authority and its partner, Joslin Lesser Associates. The architect is ADD Inc., and Walsh Brothers is the construction manager.