The College plans to introduce two new upperclass student living spaces in fall 2019—four suite-style apartment houses as well as the conversion of Boody-Johnson House into a College House. Born out of more than 1,600 survey responses from students, faculty, staff and neighbors as well as the efforts of a working group on off-campus and upperclass housing, these two changes to Bowdoin’s campus work to address student desires and entice students to remain living on campus.
“[Student survey responses and focus groups revealed] a desire to have an independent living experience as one becomes an upperclass student,” said Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster. “Students were seeking [certain things] off campus because we weren’t offering a comparable kind of housing on campus.”
The four new apartment houses, which altogether will house 88 students, hope to address students wants. Each suite will contain single bedrooms, a kitchen and bathrooms as well as a common space for the groups of four, six and eight students. One of the apartments will include a common space in its basement, large enough for group gatherings. All of the apartments prioritize accessibility and energy efficiency.
Located along Park Row where Gustafson House is currently, these apartments will be centrally located, adjacent to Chamberlain Hall.
“A winter-time campus like Bowdoin [that has many students living on campus] create[s] a certain sort of energy and vitality,” said Foster. “When you suddenly have people living [off campus], the possibility for engagement with the College becomes somewhat diminished.”
Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Matt Orlando noted that finances did play a role in the decision to build new upperclass housing, particularly considering that 217 students, an unprecedented number, lived off campus in the 2016-2017 academic year. This resulted in a loss of more than half a million dollars. In November, the College announced a cap of 185 students to live off campus in the 2018-2019 academic year.
“There is a financial aspect of this where we have beds available for students to occupy,” said Orlando, “but this is a much broader issue—what does it mean for a residential college to have a significant portion of the senior class living off campus?”
A working group on housing last fall found that students who chose to live off campus often cited their dissatisfaction with the College’s housing options.
Like the apartment construction, the conversion of Boody-Johnson into a College House will also work to centralize housing on campus, creating a row of College Houses on Maine Street with Quinby and MacMillan Houses. Similar to the other Houses, Boody-Johnson will hold 25 to 30 students.
These housing changes will catalyze a number of other changes. The Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, now housed in Boody-Johnson, will move to Ham House, joining Pols House and Riley House to form a chain of academic buildings on Bath Road. With Gustafson House being torn down to make room for the new apartments, its current resident, the Upward Bound program, will move into 82 Federal Street along with the Treasurer’s Office, which previously resided in Ham House.
With construction documents hopefully ready by the late spring or early summer the College hopes to start construction in August. In the meantime, Bowdoin continues to meet with neighbors and plans to meet with the Brunswick Planning Board. Foster noted that the College will try to be as responsive as possible to neighbors’ input, as well as work to “[fit the new apartments] with the streetscape of Maine Street.”
“We’re adding to our residential experience in a really powerful way, in a dynamic way that will be long-lasting and enduring,” said Foster. “It’s not a four-year investment, it’s a 40-year investment. You’re going to have many Bowdoin students who will have this as part of their educational experience at the College.”
Emily Cohen and Jaret Skonieczny contributed to this report.