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Park Row opens for students, despite hiccups

September 6, 2019

Ann Basu
HOME SWEET HOME Contractors worked through the night to have Park Row Apartments ready for move-in day on September 1.
Ann Basu
GOING DOWN One of the Park Row Apartments features a large basement space for hosting campus gatherings where students can register events with ResLife.

The new Park Row Apartments opened just in time for students to return to campus for the fall semester. One of the four buildings received approval for occupancy from town officials on September 1, just hours before students were set to move in.

Construction of the Park Row Apartments proved slow-going because the site, which was chosen for its proximity to the center of campus, was too small to allow for more than one foundation to be set at a time, said Matt Orlando, senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer of the College. Orlando also said that a widespread labor shortage in Maine further slowed the construction process.

Additionally, partway through construction, the Bowdoin Labor Alliance (BLA) released a statement alleging that Timberland Drywall, a subcontractor of Wright-Ryan, the construction company hired by the College for the project, was misclassifying workers and committing tax fraud. In its statement, BLA called on the College to verify the labor practices of its subcontractors. Scott Hood, senior vice president for communications and public affairs, confirmed that the College was aware of BLA’s claims and was looking into them.

The project came in at only 75 percent of the cost of similar projects at peer institutions in recent years, according to Orlando, who said that the College’s choice to use a wood-frame structure and forgo extra amenities such as fitness rooms and elaborate outdoor landscaping helped keep costs down.

“The finishes we selected were very reasonable,” Orlando said. “We wanted them to be timeless. It was very important that they withstand the test of time and have the durability that we always look for, but we were not going for anything … high-end.”

Lisa Rendall, director of residential life and housing operations, reported a number of lingering issues with the apartments even after they opened. Doors with windows where there shouldn’t be and flooding showers were among the main complaints.

Rendall noticed the incorrect installation of doors with windows to the hallway, giving view into apartments, and she purchased curtains and rods to cover the windows until the correct style of door can be installed. “They’re locked, they’re safe, they have curtains up, they have privacy and the doors will be replaced,” said Rendall.

Rendall also said that shower thresholds were not installed in the bathrooms of apartments in two of the buildings, causing students to flood the bathroom while using the shower. Rendall explained that the parts had arrived on campus and would be installed on Thursday and Friday.

The College did not have interim housing available for Park Row residents who arrived on campus before September 1, but all students had access to storage facilities and had been notified that they would not be allowed to move in prior to September 1 when they selected Park Row Apartments in the lottery, said Rendall.

Park Row resident Mishal Kazmi ’21 said that she was able to stay on a friend’s couch in Reed House between August 18 and September 1, but that it was difficult to plan housing given that most of her friends were not returning to campus until September 1.

However, she said that the move-in date was well-reported by the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) both in person and over email.

“My experience with ResLife has always been really positive,” Kazmi wrote in an email to the Orient. “I was communicating with Lisa Rendall throughout … and she was always very helpful and open about the entire experience.”

Rendall explained that if the buildings had not been completed by noon on September 1, ResLife would have found housing for students in a variety of on- and off-campus locations. In the end, she was glad the office didn’t have to.

“I think people were really happy. It was really fun at 12:01 [on move-in day] to have people try their card and get in and run into their apartment and be yelling with joy,” said Rendall. “It was really gratifying to see how excited they were about the space.”

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