After a 15-month renovation, Calhoun College has finally emerged from its scaffolding. Staff reporter RACHEL WANG takes a tour.

Even without its trademark tire swing, the refurbished Calhoun College managed to impress students.

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[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”10294″ ]

More than three years after University officials agreed to give Calhoun a comprehensive overhaul, the college reopened in August after a 15-month renovation that significantly expanded the college’s basement, replaced the roof and restored the entire exterior. Interviewed students expressed happiness with the results of the renovation, even though the college’s great elm tree fell casualty to the expanded basement.

“I’m still floored [by the results]; it’s far better than I imagined,” Calhoun Master Jonathan Holloway said.

Calhoun has been under ongoing construction for at least five summers. Renovations began in the summer of 2005 and 2006, when all the college’s windows were replaced. Heavy rains in October 2005 caused severe leaks in several Calhoun suites, and University President Richard Levin announced a 15-month renovation for the college in May 2006, after architectural firm KieranTimberlake Associates reported that work could not be completed in summers alone.

Before excavating space for the basement expansion, workers surveyed the site with ground-penetrating radar, which revealed a 2-foot-thick concrete pad left over from when the college was originally built.

Workers ultimately dug out two-thirds of the college courtyard to open space for the basement, drilling down 35 to 40 feet to complete the renovation, Holloway said. The expanded basement features a new lounge with wireless Internet, a game room, an improved buttery and a TV room.

Students who walk over the center of the courtyard perhaps don’t even realize they’re walking over a huge new room, said Steve Piotech, a construction worker with Dimeo Construction.

The college’s theater, the Calhoun Cabaret, now seats 80; prior to the renovation, the space fit only 39. Holloway called the refitted space the “jewel in the crown” of the basement renovation, which also includes two new dressing rooms. Holloway said the cabaret should be open in two weeks.

The on-time renovation of Calhoun stands in marked contrast to work completed on Jonathan Edwards College last year; that project finished two and a half months behind schedule, forcing 15 JE juniors and seniors to live at the Omni Hotel for three weeks.

Ten Calhoun students interviewed said they were satisfied with the renovation; some pointed to the new basement as the renovation’s highlight.

“The setback of Calhoun before was that it had a small basement,” Gregory Korb ’10 said. “The renovation augmented the space, and it’s a big improvement.”

Korb said the basement remains “a little gritty” from the renovation, but expects it to be “totally livable” when the gym is installed and other facilities set up.

Susan Steinman ’10 said she feels rooms in the college’s suites lost “some charm” in the renovation, and noted that alarms sounded every time she opened her bedroom door for the first few days.

With Calhoun complete, only two colleges have yet to be renovated. Work on Morse College began in May and is “on track,” architect Stephen Kieran ’73 said, and construction on Ezra Stiles College will occupy the 2010-’11 academic year.