New Residence Hall Plans Pass Initial Hurdles

Posted September 26th, 2013 at 2:30 pm.

A tentative sketch of the new Haffner Hall

A tentative sketch of the new residence hall

The plan for Bryn Mawr’s new residence hall  made it over its first set of hurdles this month as the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners OK’d the tentative sketch for the project.

“We’re still very early in this process, but so far the township’s reaction to the plan had been very favorable and we’re still on track to have students in the residence hall  in time for the Fall 2015 semester,” says Bryn Mawr Chief Administrative Officer Jerry Berenson.

The new residence hall will be an entirely three-story structure and provide housing for 130 students in 110 singles and 10 double rooms, increasing the hall capacity by more than 50 students. Philadelphia-based Atkin Olshin Schade Architects is working with the College on the building’s design.

As was outlined in a July email from Interim President Kim Cassidy, the additional space will make it possible for the College to bring back to campus the students it currently pays to house off campus and to incorporate Perry House programming into the space. The College will also be able to house more upper-class students in single rooms, thanks to the project.

The sketches submitted to the township are intended to show the overall footprint of the new dormitory, locations of paths and walkways, and to address storm-water management plans. More detailed designs will be developed as the project progresses. The Student Housing Options Committee, which was formed last year, is working with Facilities staff and the architects for the project on the design.

Township officials will vote to approve a more detailed preliminary plan later this year or early in 2014.

College officials have also met with the township zoning hearing board and the historical commission in connection with the project.

Among the issues that must be resolved by the hearing board is a height variance for the new structure.

“We requested a variance to allow the new dorm to exceed the township limit of 35 feet in height,” says Director of Facilities Glenn Smith. “Our proposal peaks at approximately 40 feet and we justified our design based upon the height of the surrounding buildings and the fact that we are removing the existing towers at Haffner which now are as high as 60 feet.  We’re cautiously optimistic.”

A ruling on the height variance is expected later this month.

College officials will meet with the historical commission on Oct. 28. The commission will evaluate how well the design of the new building fits in with the historical context of the general area and make recommendations to the full board of commissioners.

Demolition of the two-story Haffner towers is scheduled for the spring of 2014, with the construction of the new building to follow.

Facilities will be holding on-campus events where community members can see the latest designs and ask questions about the project in the months ahead.

In addition to other residence halls, Bryn Mawr students displaced by the  project are living in the Mermont Plaza apartments adjacent to campus, a privately managed student apartment adjacent to St. Joseph’s University, and at the Haverford College apartments.

Displaced students are mostly adjusting well to the situation, says Director of Residential Life Angie Sheets.

“So far the only real complaint has been from the students living by St. Joe’s who have to pay city wage tax on their work study,” says Sheets.

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