Construction has begun in the conversion of the former Stevens Retirement Home into student housing. The College plans to have the building, located at 52 Harpswell Road, ready to use as a chem-free dorm for the 2014-2015 academic year.

A meeting on Tuesday brought architects and engineers from Harriman Associates—the firm overseeing the renovation—together with students and administrators from the College to discuss ideas for the space.

The Town of Brunswick approved the project last April and the College officially acquired the building in June. The building is located near both the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center and Farley Fieldhouse. 

According to Mark Lee, an architect with Harriman, the building’s 20 rooms will mostly keep doubles, though a few will be singles. The dorm is expected to house 25 to 30 upperclassmen.

According to Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katie Longley, a lit walkway from Farley Fieldhouse will also be installed before the beginning of next year. 

Design and planning is scheduled to begin in November, with the actual renovation commencing in the spring. If all goes according to plan, students will be able to move into the residence by August 2014.

In the meeting—referred to as a “design charette”—much of the discussion centered on how to make the building as environmentally friendly as possible. 

Ideas included a building composting system, rain barrels and bike storage in the basement—an idea that Sustainability Outreach Assistant Andrew Cushing ’12 said has been popular in first-year dorms. Currently though, Longley said, the basement will be used for faculty storage by the Biology Department. 

Students also voiced a desire for the option to line-dry their clothes, either on the building’s screen porch or in the rooms.

Lee emphasized that many of the building’s features, like in-room bathrooms, kitchens and common areas, will likely be preserved. Mary Pat McMahon, associate dean of student affairs and director of residential life, said in the meeting that she wants the space to be a strong community environment, “with a cozy, homey feeling to it,” similar to that of a College House.

The building’s location in a residential area necessitates that the residence be chem-free.
“Neighbors do prefer chem-free housing,” said Longley. 

“The Dean of Students Office [sic] has already designated the building as ‘chem-free’ as part of their internal process,” she added later in an email to the Orient. 

The College is also moving forward with plans to move the Bowdoin Organic Garden, currently located across the street from Osher and West Halls on South Street, to the yard on the property of the new dorm.

According to Longley, a cover crop has already been planted at this site, and harvesting is scheduled to begin in 2014. The current location, meanwhile, “will continue to be used for low-intensive gardening until the new garden is functional.”

Another meeting with students is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 22.