By Kate Abbott
The staffs of three Row houses moved in just last Friday after improvement projects awaited completion and county inspections, sending the staffs to other houses during training this month and delaying set-up and decorating.
While other row staffs moved into their residences at the beginning of last week, the resident assistants (RAs) for the three affected dorms — Bob, La Casa Italiana and Storey — were housed in Xanadu. Student Housing placed managers in Alondra. The construction prevented the staffs from entering their houses until last Friday. As a result, all aspects of house openings were pushed back, from the practical, such as kitchen checks, to the more light-hearted, such as theme decorations.
“There was a minimal effect on training, but getting the house prepared for move-in was kind of a hassle,” said Casa RA Blake Miller ’11. “A lot of the stuff that used to be in the house is in storage containers, and we haven’t been able to unload those yet…but that’s not a huge inconvenience.”
RAs arrived on campus Aug. 27, with other staff members moving in early September. Some freshman RAs also were displaced while waiting for renovations in Trancos and Soto.
According to Rodger Whitney, executive director of Student Housing, the Row houses were slated for renovation over the next three years as part of the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Though each project was estimated to need six months for completion, all were finished this summer in just three. The houses got seismic improvements, life-safety upgrades, new restrooms, water-conserving appliances and “significant” aesthetic improvements, he said.
“We believe the students assigned to these residences will be very pleased with the significant improvements made to their living space over the past three months,” Whitney wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.
As of last Friday, all the houses were certified “livable” by county inspectors, but are not without issues.
“As they approached the deadline, the construction workers were everywhere, and we saw them coming in and out like ants,” Miller said.
“They set up a CIP hotline because there were a lot of issues coming up because it was so hasty toward the end of renovations,” said Andy Hiller ’11, the RA in Storey.
Hiller said that over the weekend, there was no running cold water. Wireless Internet was not installed until Monday evening, and no one can enter the kitchen until it passes a county health inspection this Wednesday.
Although residents will not begin moving into their freshly painted rooms until this Thursday, the renovations had an impact on more intangible things, like staff bonding.
“It’s been a bit odd,” said Hiller, who has worked as a summer RA for the past three years. “I sort of had expectations of what staff training would be like, and for me, that’s staff bonding. The renovations made it difficult, because we’ve been a little bit scattered. We were in Xanadu long past when other RAs moved out, and it felt very temporary. We didn’t really have a home.”
“There were some obstacles to actually being with my staff and getting to know them,” he added. “We didn’t get working to theme or decorations until Friday.”
When asked about the potential effects of construction on staffers, Row Associate Dean Nate Boswell declined to comment.
Miller said that permits were required before houses could be inhabited, thus delaying staffers’ move-in dates.
“There was not much [Housing] could do; they needed to get permits to move everyone into the house,” he said. “It’s pretty cool that they could get everyone in at the time that they did.”
Hiller agreed, saying, “It was obvious that [Storey] needed to be renovated.”
Whitney said now that interior work is done, landscaping can come next. In the meantime, fences surround the perimeters of the three Row houses, but the houses are still accessible.
“The new landscaping plan, once it is fully implemented, will make for a wonderful outdoor living space around and between the houses,” Whitney said. “Bob and La Casa Italiana are now directly connected with walkways. The area between the houses will become a park-like shared courtyard, with trees, benches, a basketball court and grass volleyball area.”
Hiller said his staff would address issues as they arise when residents begin moving in on Thursday, but overall was happy with the improvements.
“We’re making it work, and we’re optimistic that we’ll have everything ready to go on our end by the time the residents move in on Thursday,” he said, although his theme suggestion of “freshest house on campus” — Storey still smells of fresh paint — was nixed by his staffers immediately.