Last week, Vice President for Student Affairs Celestino Limas held a series of informational presentations for students outlining Kenyon’s plans for the construction of new residence halls and the renovation and demolition of existing ones.
To improve the quality of housing at Kenyon, the College plans to transition away from traditional dormitory-style housing toward suite and apartment-style living. This comes after a survey in May of 2020 found students prefer newer, apartment-style residences. “Traditional-style housing … is a bit of a thing from the last century and I think they want to make certain that we’re meeting the needs of our students,” Limas said.
In 2020, before the College housed students off campus — due to a historically large first-year class — Kenyon’s residential capacity was 1,814. Limas says the College believes that through construction and renovation, it can increase its capacity to 2,241, while also improving Kenyon’s overall housing quality. Limas explained how capital improvements will give the College’s infrastructure an upgrade so it can better accommodate students with disabilities and other living requirements, as well as larger enrollments. However, Limas repeatedly emphasized that greater residential capacity does not necessarily mean larger enrollments. “If anything, COVID has taught us that there is definitely a strong benefit to an institution having excess capacity within housing inventory,” he remarked.
The first changes to be made will take place in May when the College will cease use of the Pines at Apple Valley and the Kenyon Inn for student housing. “[It’s] important for us to return this coming fall to having all of our students living here at Kenyon,” Limas said.
In their stead, the College will construct modular housing units to accommodate students until new residence halls are complete and old residence halls are renovated. Limas confirmed that these temporary housing structures will have on-site laundry, lounges and kitchen space for student use. Further information regarding modular housing, including locations and floor plans, will become available at a later date.
The second major change to campus — though still pending approval — is the first component of a larger four-part project called the Historic District Renovation. This long-term endeavor aims to renovate Kenyon’s oldest buildings. Phase one will be the renovation of Bexley Hall to house 36 suite-style living accommodations. “This would actually be the result of a unique donor gift that the College has secured that would actually accelerate the Bexley renovation,” Limas said. “Ground will actually be broken on Bexley this semester so that students may be able to live in it come fall .”
The third development to campus housing will be the construction of three new residence halls in the South Quad that will hold 104 new apartment-style beds each, adding a total of 312 beds to the College’s housing capacity. Two of these buildings will be located behind Hanna and Leonard Halls on each side of Old Kenyon. After the demolition of Bushnell Hall and Manning Hall, in the fall of 2024, a third building will be constructed further south and adjacent to Old Kenyon.
One new feature of the South Quad will be the use of K-Cards to enter buildings, apartments and bedrooms in lieu of traditional keys, a move that the College says will help to improve campus safety. Each building will also be equipped with generators to sustain critical building systems during emergencies. Construction for this project will start immediately after Alumni Weekend this summer. Unfortunately for students who plan to live in Leonard, Hanna, Old Kenyon, Manning, Bushnell or the Tafts next year, it will be noisy, according to Limas.
“There is going to be construction noise right around you the entire academic year so if this is a concern for you, I would recommend looking north for your housing,” Limas said.
Looking even farther into the future, Kenyon plans to dramatically expand the First-Year Quad by adding three new buildings for an additional 276 beds. One building will square off the existing First-Year Quad, while the other two will be located behind Norton Hall, creating a square with Watson Hall. More extensively, there are plans to add additional floors to the existing three buildings, which will add 102 additional beds. In total, the First-Year Quad project will earn the College an increase of 370 beds.
Finally, the College will implement the remaining parts of the Historic District Renovation. This will affect Old Kenyon, Hanna and Leonard Halls. Old Kenyon will go from holding 150 in traditional living to 100 in suite living. Leonard and Hanna will follow suit. This will decrease the total number of beds by 73, but dramatically increase the number of suites.
With new infrastructure comes new opportunities. Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities James Jackson will be holding sessions this spring to seek out student feedback for new opportunities and new possibilities. The College is also working directly with the Student Council’s Sustainability Committee to gain further student perspective.