Living under construction

Freshman Melanie Strauss admits living in the Holly Apartments these days is a little out of the ordinary.

“It’s a little strange,” she said. “I was trying to eat breakfast one day and the blinds were open, and there was this guy sitting there having a break and looking into our kitchen.”

Work crews have reached the midway point of a seven-month Holly Apartments construction project that will outfit hallways with new amenities such as air conditioning and wireless Internet access while keeping water out during heavy rains.

While most Holly residents were looking forward to having water-free hallways, their opinions were mixed on whether those future benefits were worth the hassles of living on a construction site for a semester.

Tom Kane, director of Residence Services, said construction was necessary and the rewards of the finished product would outweigh the temporary costs.

“I think that people are going to be very pleased,” he said.Residence Services decided to enclose the exterior of the Holly Apartments after other attempts to reduce the water intrusion into Holly’s hallways were unsuccessful, Kane said. Rainstorms brought water in through open areas at the ends of Holly’s hallways, creating puddles that didn’t go away because they weren’t exposed to the sun.

Erecting walls to cover these open areas, which were about the size of a large window, constituted the first phase of construction.

The $2.5 million construction project began during the summer term and has been finished on all seven of the buildings that make up Holly Apartments.

Crews are still working on the second phase, which they plan to finish before winter break. The second phase includes outfitting the hallways with air conditioning, wireless Internet access, carpeting, cable TV and other upgrades. Different buildings are at different points in the second phase of construction, Kane said. Kane hopes the improvements will create a space where people can interact, helping students to make new friends.

“One of the issues we had with Holly is that residents didn’t stand out in the hallways and talk to each other like in other buildings,” Kane said. “We hope that when we cool the space and make it more comfortable, that people will open their doors and interact with each other. That’s the goal. That, and keeping the water out.”

Another issue for Holly residents is living with the noise, dust, invasion of privacy and general inconvenience that occur when living in a construction site.

Kane said he knew the work could be inconvenient and noisy, especially during the heavier phases of construction, but the improvements being made would more than compensate for the problems. He also said Residence Services had pushed back the work crews’ start time to 9 a.m. so students could sleep later before being awakened by noise.

Kane also said Residence Services had only received two complaints about the construction, and both were from parents who agreed it was a good idea after they understood the nature of the project.

The other issue residents have is whether all of these hassles, the noise especially, will be worth it in the end.

Most students’ judgments depended upon how long they planned to live in Holly. Residents such as Bob Brann, a freshman who plans to live in Holly again next year, said he could handle it for now because of the payoff in the end.

“It’s not unbearable right now, and when the time comes around, it will be a really nice place for me to call home for my term in college,” Brann said. “But when you walk out of your apartment right now, it’s like stepping into a concrete jungle.”

Some residents who plan to move out of Holly after the spring semester expressed skepticism.

“It’s not worth it to me,” Strauss said. “I plan to move off campus next year. Whether or not we have carpet out there is not a big deal. I’d rather they just put key slides on the side doors.”

It was worth it to the Residence Hall Association, a group of elected representatives for on-campus residents, and to student body President Frank Harrison. They were informed of the project in advance and agreed it was a good idea, Kane said.

“I think it’s a good project,” said Oleg Polupan, RHA president and a resident of Holly Apartments. “The construction can be kind of annoying at times, but that’s just the way it is.”

The hassles residents have to deal with should be more manageable now that the heaviest phases of construction have been completed on most of the buildings, Kane said. The noise levels are better now than they were during the summer.

“It was ungodly noisy in May, June and the beginning of July,” Kane said. “They were grinding and cutting, but now it’s just occasional noise. It could hurt your ears over the summer.”

Over the summer, letters informing students of the construction were sent to all of this year’s Holly residents so they would be better prepared for some of the hassles, Kane said. He added that students were also informed about the construction during spring room sign-up. Some of the students who lived in Holly over the summer, however, did not receive advance notification and did not expect to be living amid construction crews.

“It was an adventure the day I moved in,” said Megan Carreras, a freshman who lived in Holly over the summer and now lives in Cypress. “Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad, but initially it was definitely a shock to move in.”

Inconveniences are an unavoidable part of construction, Kane said, but the feedback he got from students and the RHA before beginning the project made him confident that students would think the trouble was worth it in the end.

“There was pretty much the general attitude that one semester of inconvenience would be more than made up for by the increased quality of life from having an air conditioned, carpeted and more usable space,” Kane said. “I think that most students see that it’s going to be pretty cool when it’s done.”