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Swing Spaces to House Students

By Stephanie B. Garlock, Gautam S. Kumar, and Hana N. Rouse, Crimson Staff Writers

Students will be housed in three different swing space locations around Harvard Square during the renovation of Old Quincy, administrators announced on Friday.

Hampden Hall at 8 Plympton Street, Fairfax Hall at 1306 Massachusetts Avenue, and Ridgely Hall at 65 Mt. Auburn Street will house the 180 displaced students as Old Quincy undergoes a 15-month renovation project, slated to begin in June 2012.

The buildings, owned and operated by Harvard University Housing, currently serve as apartments for graduate students and visiting faculty. Tenants in the apartments at 8 Plympton Street said that they received an email earlier this year telling them that the building would be unavailable during the 2012-2013 school year.

Proximity to Quincy and the ability of the physical infrastructure of the buildings to recreate a normal House experience were priorities in choosing swing housing, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith said in an interview on Friday.

“A number of factors went into selecting these buildings as swing space. Ideally, there would have been a building just like Old Quincy nearby, but we are very satisfied that this option will provide students with a positive experience,” Smith said.

Smith added that the current spaces would be slightly touched up to fit the needs of undergraduates, but would not elaborate on how high the costs for the projects would run.

Quincy House Master Lee Gehrke said during an interview in January that he will prioritize maintaining a sense of community among students still living in Quincy and those displaced to swing housing throughout the construction process.

“We want to make sure that the Quincy House community is still unified and that the students feel that they still have a House that welcomes them,” Gehrke said.

While these three spaces could be used for future projects that would only take parts of Houses out of commission, Smith said that the considerations for finding housing to accommodate full House renovations are more complicated. He indicated that a “swing House” will need to be created before construction begins on larger House Renewal projects.

According to Adams House Master John G. “Sean” Palfrey ’67, administrators have discussed the possibility of creating a new building for swing space to house students during future renovations.

“There aren’t a lot of places near Harvard that can house a full 350 to 400 people,” Smith said.

Old Quincy was selected in December 2010 as a test case for House renewal, serving as a blueprint for future renovation projects for the other neo-Georgian houses.

“This is an experiment, and we will learn a lot from it,” Leverett House Master Howard M. Georgi ’68 wrote in an email.

The administration has not offered a timeline for the rest of the renovation process, although administrators have said that the start dates of future construction will depend on availability of funding.

The costs for the Quincy renovation project will be covered through investments, donations, and internal FAS funds, which includes the school’s reserves, according to Smith.

Administrators have said that the full House renewal projects will be a top priority for the upcoming capital campaign. Donors and senior administrators said in past interviews that the total cost of the renovation projects would be over a billion dollars.

According to members from the FAS Physical Resources Department, the renovation of Old Quincy will at least include updated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units.

The House Program Planning Committee outlined further possible changes for the Houses, such as introducing “clusters”—large common rooms for students living in singles along a hallway—and eliminating walk-throughs, a rooming setup that requires students to walk through their roommate’s bedroom to reach the bathroom.

“Each House will continue to be unique, but we also believe strongly as we renovate the House system that each student shouldn’t have a different experience,” Smith said of the renovations.

College administrators are currently reviewing the HPPC’s recommendations for future renovations, and they hope to release more developed plans this May, according to Smith.

—Staff writer Sirui Li contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Monika L.S. Robbins contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at

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