Stepping into Harrington Hall after months of renovations, the St. Thomas University residence is nearly unrecognizable.
It looks as if construction crews are building it from the ground up rather than renovating a building that was built approximately 50 years ago. The walls have been built up again, a fresh neutral first coat of paint on the walls, but loose wires and leftover pieces of hardwood are everywhere. Hard hats and steel-toed shoes are still required to enter the construction zone.
“The big work [that has been done so far] is the stuff you can’t see: electrical, plumbing, communications,” said John Feeny, one of the construction crew members working on Harrington.
The decision to renovate Harrington, the oldest residence along with Vanier, was made two years ago. At that time, a working committee was put together to examine possible ways to renovate the building and how to proceed with the project.
“We felt [renovating Harrington] would have the biggest impact on residential living on campus at St. Thomas,” said Jeffrey Carleton, associate vice-president communications at St. Thomas University.
Now, STU is in the middle of the construction project. The team is on schedule with six more months to go before the residence re-opens.
The building will have several new features when its doors open in September 2017. On the first floor, there will be six wheelchair-accessible rooms with wider door frames, as well as a wheelchair-accessible laundry room.
The two bathrooms on each floor will have separate spaces for showers and toilets. There will be showers on the left as you enter the room and toilets and countertop sinks on the right-hand side. There will be five lounges in total, with varying themes, some dedicated to studying and others dedicated to leisure. Each lounge will have varying levels of kitchen appliances. Some will have microwaves and others will have a full kitchen, complete with stoves, ovens, refrigerators and cupboards.
The bathrooms also are gender neutral, a first for STU residences.
“We’re building Harrington so it can be as flexible as possible,” said Carleton.
As for the potential of a gender-neutral wing, the administration is looking at the possibility.
“We have that option if we want to pursue it. We just haven’t made a decision yet, but it’s something we’re going to look at in the future,” said Carleton.
Each dorm room will have its own thermostat located inside the room, allowing students full control of their room’s temperature. The walls will be thicker, promoting more extensive privacy. The rooms will be able to handle a higher concentration of electric current running through them and have more outlets, more evenly distributed throughout the room. Each room will come with a furniture set of a bed and bed frame, a book shelf, a desk, a chair and shelving. In addition, students will be able to move their furniture around to customize the arrangement of their room.
As to why Harrington was the first residence to be renovated, Carleton said it made sense economically.
“It was the oldest, it holds more students [and] hadn’t had any major renovations, so, finishing that on time for September 2017, we felt would have the biggest impact on residential living on campus at St. Thomas.”
As the building neared its 52nd year housing university students, residents said Harrington Hall had no shortage of faults.
Remembering the original building, Caleb Painter recalled a long series of faults, ranging from heating problems and water temperature issues to perpetually grimy floors.
“Everybody complained,” said Painter, a second-year student.
However, some students believe the other residences should have been renovated as well.
Ashley Alward, a first-year student living in Holy Cross House, said the smaller building needs improvement.
“[The issues with the building disrupt my every day life] all the time,” said Alward.
She listed off several problems with the building including water pressure and thin insulation.
In response to hearing such complaints, Carleton said the university encourages students to report these faults to their residence advisors.
“The only way we can address these problems is if they’re recorded and reported to Residence Life and student services.”
Carleton mentioned other residences might soon follow Harrington’s lead.
“Vanier would be number two on the list [for renovations].”
In the meantime, Harrington, albeit deep in construction now, will be ready and fully-refurbished to be home to whole new group of students next year: the Harrington Raiders reborn.
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