Dwight Hall board delays renovations

One Old Campus landmark will now have to wait at least another year to get its much-needed facelift.

Last week, Dwight Hall’s board of directors decided to postpone renovations originally been slated to begin next May until plans are finalized and additional funds raised. Construction will not begin on the historic building, which has not been renovated since 1931, until 2008, Dwight Hall Executive Director Katherine Burdick said.

Burdick said the renovation plans currently preferred would include the construction of a balcony around Dwight Chapel and would create space for meeting rooms on Dwight Hall’s second floor while moving most of the offices to the first floor. But she said many of Dwight Hall’s partners who use the chapel are concerned about the effect of the balcony on the chapel’s acoustics. An initial study was already conducted and showed minimal complications. Still, it was decided that a second analysis should be conducted to ensure that the acoustics will remain adequate for both spoken word and the resident organ.

“We are so far behind with the architectural design … by the time the acoustical analysis is done it could be that construction won’t start until September or so of 2008,” Burdick said. “There are so many issues because you only get one shot at renovation every thousand years or so.”

The balcony plan will require an additional $1 million over the original $5 million budgeted as Dwight Hall’s share of the construction costs, Dwight Hall co-coordinator Helena Herring ’07 said. Yale is funding the rest of the construction costs, but Herring said the renovation has not yet been added to the University’s construction schedule because the plans have not been finalized.

Most of the specific renovations outlined in the current plans are intended to bring the building up to code, including adding larger and more accessible bathrooms, Herring said. Burdick said this improvement will unfortunately reduce the amount of meeting space for students, a commodity always in demand.

Zachary Zwillinger ’07, co-coordinator of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, said the building has been sufficient for his group even though it lacks some more modern features, such as adequate electrical outlets and computer access. On a campus where space for student groups to meet can be scarce, Zwillinger said Dwight Hall has provided his group with room for an office, meetings and storage.

“It’s a beautiful building, and for YHHAP’s purposes, it’s pretty adequate,” he said.

But Zwillinger said that although the lack of modern features does not hinder the activities of his group, other groups have struggled with it.

Burdick said the delay in renovation should not cause any serious problems, since the building is still functional, just uncomfortable — especially during the summer, since it is currently not fitted with air conditioning. Herring said, though, that Dwight Hall’s roughly 70 member groups have less to worry about, as they will not need to find alternative locations for meetings and storage until construction begins.

“They don’t have to worry about it quite as soon as they thought they were going to have to,” she said. “All those decisions and plans have been pushed back a bit.”

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