Dartmouth College revises controversial plan for new student apartments

A rendering of Dartmouth College’s ‘apartment style’ student accommodation on the west side of Lyme Road, near Hanover Police and Fire Station. (Courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross)

Bowing to neighborhood pressure but not giving up completely, Dartmouth College has unveiled a revised plan to build a student housing complex on Lyme Road north of Hanover’s city center, a second attempt that nonetheless received a mixed reaction among area residents.

The new plan, which revises the original proposal Dartmouth launched last October, would move the location of undergraduate accommodation for up to 400 students to the east side of Lyme Road, on what is currently the recreation area of Garipay Field, on the west side of the road, at the north end of the former Hanover Country Club golf course and near the Hanover Police Department and Fire Station.

“We’ve heard a lot of community feedback over the past few months,” Josh Keniston, vice president of campus services and institutional projects at Dartmouth, said in an interview with the Valley News, noting that the college had several meetings with neighborhood residents. , faculty, staff and sports groups who use Garipay Field for practice and recreation.

The outcome of the ‘feedbacks’ – which included teachers voting two months apart to register their opposition to the previous proposal – demonstrated that ‘the community has strong feelings about how the space around Lyme Road is activated

“What we heard was, you know, maybe Garipay Field wasn’t the right place,” he said.

Spacious and open, Garipay Field is a popular college and community recreation venue, used year-round for football in the summer, cross-country skiing in the winter and, although technically prohibited, dog walking in all seasons. .

The original plan, which the college suspended in February following a protest vote by faculty and staff, alternatively called for the development of a student housing plot south of Garipay Field behind a grove of trees and houses where Dartmouth golf team practice.

Like the original proposal, the new location on the west side of Lyme Road is designed to house 400 undergraduates in “apartment-style” units that would include single bedrooms, a common room and a kitchen. The three-building complex would also serve as a “swing” space to accommodate students as the college embarks on an ambitious, multi-year, campus-wide project to renovate undergraduate dorms.

Eventually, Keniston said, the complex could be converted into housing for 300 graduate and professional students.

Upcoming Obstacles

About three-quarters of Dartmouth’s roughly 4,000 undergraduates live in “residential communities,” a term that encompasses dormitories, fraternities, sororities, “living learning communities,” and seniors’ apartments. And the college has traditionally presented the campus life experience, with its easy access to in-class and out-of-class activities, as integral to the student’s intellectual education.

But Dartmouth has also faced a housing shortage for years, forcing the college to adopt a commuter housing system in which sophomores are in residence for “sophomore summer” to free up dorms. for freshmen, juniors, and seniors during other terms. . Historically, a campus slug also became available as students flocked overseas for their freshman year.

The pandemic has upended the system, however, putting more pressure on the college to house students in Hannover.

The Lyme Road proposal is designed to appeal to students, primarily third- and fourth-year undergraduates, who are willing to agree to reside a 30-minute walk from the green in the heart of campus in exchange for what the administrators of the college define as more independent apartment living.

Keniston said administrators are aware that the Lyme Road residential complex would still require an element of ‘programming’ so students don’t feel ‘like you’re totally alone’ more than a mile from the main university community . He said administrators are currently considering what form this might take.

However, significant hurdles remain to be overcome with the college proposal, not the least of which will be persuading Hannover planning and zoning officials that a three-building, 128-unit complex north of the city center built on a former golf course is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

Keniston said the goal is to start “engaging” with the community again later this year and early next year before moving on to submitting a site plan to the city and hopefully the, to obtain permits. Construction could easily continue until 2024 and the goal is to have the complex ready for occupancy in the fall of 2025.

Barry Harwick, a retired Dartmouth alumnus and athletics coach who lives on Reservoir Road near Garipay Field, called the revised proposal ‘slightly better for the neighborhood, but for the students who are going to live there, not better in any way, shape or form.”

Harwick cited the increase in traffic along Lyme Road from “the commute of 400 students back and forth all day” and how residing more than a mile from the heart of campus would mean “those students miss the educational opportunities that other students will have to live on. Campus.”

Although Harwick says there are other approaches to addressing the student housing shortage, some of them at sites around town the college has identified in the past, he believes Dartmouth’s plan is motivated by expediency rather than by other considerations.

“I think the reason they’re building this there is that they want flat land that they already own that can be built quickly,” he said.

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