On Tuesday, George Arey, associate vice president for student affairs, gave The Gavel a tour of Boston College’s two newest residence halls at 2000 Commonwealth Ave. and 2150 Commonwealth Ave. For the time being, Mr. Arey and the Office of Residential Life have temporarily nicknamed them Reservoir Apartments and Thomas More Apartments respectively. Both of the new residence halls dazzled us as we went from room to room, floor to floor, building to building.
At the onset of the tour, Mr. Arey, speaking on behalf of the Office of Residential Life, outlined the philosophy in place for all new residential halls, including those built or renovated in recent years. The new building layouts are governed by a Jesuit philosophy, which states that there are three dimensions of student formation: spiritual, social, and intellectual. This thinking translates over to the design of the residence halls. There are spaces for reflection, academics, and community near each other. Every level of Thomas More Apartments presents a perfect example of the triad: glass walls separate social areas—filled with cushy seating—from the study spaces, and these areas are in close proximity to reflection rooms.
Reservoir Apartments, which was previously an apartment complex unaffiliated with BC, contains a similar set-up: study spaces, social areas, and reflection rooms surround every hallway of dorm rooms. In grasping how these residence halls compare to prior designs, turn to the freshmen dorms on upper campus. Cheverus Hall, renovated a few years ago, has an open floor plan on the ground level with a large common area adjacent to study spaces—separated from the rest of the area by glass walls—and a reflection room. In comparison, Kostka Hall has sparse common areas and no study spaces.
Reservoir will house primarily juniors, select sophomores, and a few groups of seniors: a total of 540 students. Thomas More sleeps 490 people—mainly seniors—but there is ample room for non-residents on the first floor, which will be accessible to students of all classes. Mr. Arey hopes they will take advantage of the residence hall’s many social spaces and seminar rooms, including the crown jewel of the first floor: a room he has temporarily nicknamed “The Commons,” a spacious meeting room with high ceilings and access to the well-manicured courtyard.
A feature of both Thomas More and Reservoir that I found particularly refreshing was the openness—and airiness—of the floor plans. For comparison, think of how you feel while walking down a corridor in Walsh Hall en route to a dorm room. Claustrophobia takes hold as every turn leads to a long hall surrounded by windowless, brick walls. On the other hand, you can stand in the elbow of the fourth floor of Thomas More and see the second, third, and fifth floors because of the myriad of glass walls. A lone studying student at 3 a.m. only need to look down unto the next floor to feel comforted by the fact that she is not burning the midnight oil alone.
Reservoir, while more compact than Thomas More, is a glamorous residence hall. Even though the pool has been filled in and balconies are no longer accessible, this new residence hall still has the feel of a swanky off-campus apartment. The pool area is now a huge patio where students can dine and revel in that summer breeze while weather permits. Study spaces line the patio, and glass walls—the reoccurring theme of the new buildings—provide a pleasant atmosphere for studying and lounging students. Plus, the views from Reservoir even exceed Thomas More’s. Reservoir occupants overlook the sprawling landscape of greater-Boston and, of course, the Chestnut Hill reservoir.
Some of the benefits of living in Thomas More include isolated music performance rooms for practice or recording; Apple TV’s that allows students to easily access Netflix, PowerPoints, etc.; a gigantic bike rack in the basement; ample laundry facilities; vending machines galore; and terrific views of campus and the surrounding towns. Thomas More is also equipped with motion-activated LED lights, making it a LEED Silver Certified building. Its other eco-friendly feature recycles sink water by collecting it in cisterns in the basement, filtering it, dyeing it blue, and pumping the water back into the residence hall’s toilets. It is the only building on campus with this technology, and Mr. Ayer is incredibly excited about the new sustainability initiative. Additionally, the building is compliant with ADA regulations. There are ramps and elevators for students and staff members with mobility issues: a welcomed sign of change on a campus whose buildings have been criticized for not being handicap-friendly.
Students should note that while Health Services is connected to the rest of Thomas More, you cannot access Health Services from within Thomas More and vice versa. The entrance to Health Services is on the outside of the building in a separate location from the entrance to the residence hall.
With the demolition of Edmonds Hall and the addition of the two new dorms, BC is adding 240 beds to its on-campus housing capacity this semester. With the extra 240 beds, Mr. Arey and the Office of Residential Life are closer to their ultimate goal of meeting 100% of undergraduate housing need. And with every new bed added and renovation finished, students can expect the quality of student life to continue to advance in tandem.