After a long period of negotiations with the state of Massachusetts and UMass Lowell’s Office of Residence Life, the university is adding two elevators to Fox Hall as well as renovating two of its existing elevators. Of course, this comes with a caveat: construction commenced at the beginning of this school year, and the project will dramatically impact this year’s residents of Fox Hall.
Construction will take place outside of the building first, to add the two new elevators. After that has concluded, renovation on the two existing elevators will commence. The project hopes to conclude in the fall of 2017; it could take longer depending on the weather and the cumulation of any other delays.
Haley Sullivan, a resident in Fox Hall, said that while the construction is a good idea in the long run, it has proved itself to be distracting for her. “I live on the side where the construction is taking place and I can hear all the noises from my room even with the windows closed. It’s inconvenient trying to rest when the noise outside is just irritating,” she said.
However, the major construction project and the students living in the university’s largest dorm building will be able to coexist thanks to arrangements made between the University of Massachusetts Building Authority and the Office of Residence Life.
“We’ve had meetings with the ResLife people and with Facilities Management staff and sat down and discussed the issues that the construction would present and what the concerns are from the ResLife perspective and how it would affect the students,” said Paul Gransaull, the contact for the University of Massachusetts Building Authority (UMBA). UMBA is a public organization that makes it its mission to build facilities on UMass campuses.
“[Fox Hall] was designed for 550 students. There are now 800 students in the building. So you can tell by increasing the student capacity by 250 students that the two small elevators have not been able to keep up with the math,” said Gransaull.
The university, in response to the booming freshman population, conducted a study to determine the best way to enhance the freshman on-campus experience. It determined that the move was to add two new elevators and modernize the two ones already in Fox. But there were concerns that doing so would interrupt life for students in Fox Hall.
The number of residents in Fox had to be reduced by fifty in order to accommodate for construction. Those students were sent to live at the Inn and Conference Center, which resulted in several forced triples.
Justin Killgoar, a resident assistant at Fox Hall, said that the noise levels are something that he and other RAs are responsible for curtailing.
“The only thing we’re obligated to do in relation to the construction is [to] make sure they don’t begin construction before 8 a.m. Basically, the construction has to abide by the same building quiet hours, in a sense, so they’re not waking up the residents early or keeping them up at night,” Killgoar said.
He says that the project is an exercise in cooperation between workers and students; the area has been set off so that students will not interfere, and the construction workers are mindful of the students living in Fox.
“We’ve had no issues with the construction so far. They’ve been respectful of our wishes,” Killgoar said.
The one safety concern that has been brought up was the blockage of the road in front of Fox. “People don’t walk on the sidewalk but instead walk side by side the construction. This can bring up a safety hazard with the traffic coming through everyday including school and city buses,” said Sullivan.
Dan Rabin, a resident at Bourgeois Hall who eats his meals at Fox, did not find much to be worried about. “It’s a little dangerous, because cars can’t see you. People just have to be a little more careful crossing the street,” he said.
But Killgoar did bring up the fact that fire alarms could be more disastrous than normal, since it would be difficult to get fire trucks in and out of the area. Along with most students, he hopes that there is not a fire alarm crisis this year.
Killgoar said that he has not heard many complaints from any of his residents.
“Really all we hear [from students] is ‘Really? It’s not gonna be ready until next year?’” he said.