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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Plans for downtown dorms move ahead


The College is considering building a new student residence hall in downtown Grinnell.

College administrators met this week with architecture firm Adjaye Associates to begin discussions about the potential project. In an email to The S&B, Monica Chavez-Silva, assistant vice president for Community Enhancement & Engagement wrote, “The College is evaluating the concept and is at an early exploratory stage.”

Adjaye Associates is a world-renowned firm whose former work includes the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Representatives from the firm convened this week in Grinnell to begin research on the campus and town communities and the potential contribution of a downtown dormitory.

According to Chavez-Silva, this research phase is expected to continue through the fall.

Marissa Glauberman, head of communications for Adjaye Associates, said that the current pre-design research process is a “listening phase.”

“Getting that foundational understanding will inform the rest of the process all the way through construction and completion,” she said.

According to Glauberman, Adjaye Associates was drawn to this project due to shared social values between the company and the College. “We saw that there’s a lot of parallels in our ethos and approach and some of the work that’s done here at the school in terms of challenging assumptions and it really resonated with us about this idea of weaving communities together,” she said. “Generally, our work is about bringing communities together and different groups of people.”

For Chavez-Silva, a downtown dormitory would benefit the students, the College campus and the community in a multitude of ways. “Having students nearer to the heart of the downtown would contribute to social and economic vitality downtown, while also opening new doors for meaningful connection with the greater community,” she wrote in her email.

According to Vice President of Strategic Planning Angela Voos, the board and the administration have not made any concrete decisions about the construction of a new dorm.

“It’s an idea that we think has merit but needs to be explored, and it would be the decision of the Board whether or not we will go forward,” Voos said. She explained that the new residence hall is being discussed as a possible housing option for third and fourth year students, possibly with a civic engagement or academic course integration component. The concept stems from a need to accommodate the inevitable renovation of current residence halls, and an interest in exploring different types of living situations, such as those that would benefit educational experiences, according to Voos.

For some students, news of a potential off-campus dorm project does not come as a surprise. As a long-time member of SGA, Diversity and Outreach Coordinator Tucker Haddock ‘21 has been aware of the College’s downtown aspirations since early 2019. For Haddock, the question is not whether a residence hall will be built, but who it will serve and benefit. “The building’s getting built, the question is, who is it for?” Haddock said. “If non-students, staff and Grinnell residents could get better access to affordable housing in town, I would be more likely to get behind it,” they said.

Raven McClendon ‘22 was curious about the logistics of a residence hall located so far from campus, particularly in regards to food access. “I’m wondering what would happen in regards to dining, especially with students who might get food stamps,” McClendon said. “Would people be provided with a stipend instead of the traditional meal plan?”

Adjaye Associates will be returning to campus in the next few weeks to continue assessing the benefit of a downtown residence hall.

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