The University of Oregon Housing, Residence Life and Facilities Departments held a town hall for Bean East residents on Thursday in response to resident concerns with disruptions caused by the Bean West construction.
Bean West renovations started the summer of this year and will continue through late fall of 2018. After Bean West is renovated, construction will begin on Bean East, and it will be closed for a full year.
Before construction, there were conversations about whether any part of Bean would remain open during construction, according to Michael Griffel, the University Housing Director. One of the deciding factors about keeping the other half of Bean open during construction was the number of students that needed to be housed because of the first-year live on requirement, Griffel explained.
According to Griffel, Bean has been known for its tight-knit community and no one wanted the construction to get in the way of that for the next two years. The goal of the construction is to create more of a community environment between Bean East and West.
This is the first year that the doors between the individual halls in Bean have remained unlocked in an effort to provide more opportunity for community bonding. This effort will be expanded through both Bean East and West after construction, with the ground floor becoming a study commons.
The central kitchen used to be on the ground floor between Bean East and West; however, since it was moved to another building, the ground floor between the halls has become an academic learning center, according to Landon Winter, the Fortis Construction representative at the town hall.
According to Griffel, two-thirds of this community space will be open with Bean West in the fall term of 2018. Because students lost this area during renovations, residents currently have 24/7 access to Global Scholars Hall’s kitchen, pool table and study rooms, explained Leah Andrews, the director of marketing and communications for University Housing.
Another goal of the construction is to make Bean more accessible, according to Griffel. The entrance off of 15th Avenue will have a new stair tower that includes an elevator. This area will be open along with Bean West next fall, which is why construction must occur on the two end rooms of the Parsons wing on the second and third floors.
This construction inside of Parsons hall is the cause of most concern, according to the residents; however, according to David Opp-Beckman, the facilities capital project manager for University Housing, “construction will not occur inside of Parsons hall again until June 2018.”
Opp-Beckman also gave the residents an apology for the lack of communication when the construction had shown up inside the hall without any prior notice. “That was our mess up, and we apologize greatly for that,” he said.
Because residents are living in the construction environment, they all received a $550 deduction of their housing fees, no matter their meal plan.
“Each year, housing costs go up anywhere from two to five percent due to inflation,” said Griffel. “Bean’s costs will not exceed that after renovations,” he said. Bean West residents will also receive the $550 construction discount next year, while Bean East is being renovated.
Residents are in an environment where construction begins, every day except for Sunday, at 7 a.m. with “loud construction” starting after 9 a.m., according to Winter.
Last fall, Fortis did decibel testing in the area with the tools to set a map of how loud certain tools were in certain areas of the construction and decided that anything above 90 decibels is only allowed to be used after 9 a.m., Winter explained. Residents requested that on the weekly impact reports they receive, each tool be labeled a “7 a.m. or 9 a.m.” tool to make it more clear.
Sarah Case is a resident of Parsons Hall. Her room faces Global Scholars Hall, as well as the construction. “I was studying one day and the jackhammer was going so hard outside my window that my laptop fell off of my lap,” said Case.
Five corner rooms on the second and third floor of Thornton and Parsons halls are closed off for the adjacent construction, according to Opp-Beckman. Case is two rooms away from the closed-off rooms on her side of the hall.
When a new construction worker comes on to the site, sometimes they aren’t aware of the 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. rule and will start up a 9 a.m. machine earlier than when it’s supposed to be, explained Winter.
As soon as someone realizes that that machine isn’t supposed to be running at that time, the construction workers do their best to shut it down as soon as possible, according to Winter.
Winter said that residents should notify Fortis with this information so it can be brought up in team meetings. The best way for residents to avoid accidentally being woken up by tools before 9 a.m. is to record the time, sounds and type of tool involved in the incident, if possible, explained Winter.
Andrews referred back to the Erb Memorial Union renovations, Straub renovations and the Student Recreation Center renovations to justify the Bean renovations to residents. “I know it really stinks to be on the brunt end, but it really pays off in the end,” she said.
Residents also discussed more facilities-directed issues at the town hall. On the second all-girls floor of Parsons, the restroom stalls lacked individual trash cans. Facilities were able to fix this issue within 24 hours of hearing about it.
Housing representatives suggested to the residents that they use the “fix it” forms on Starrez more often so that Facilities can solve the issues quicker. Starrez is the online domain in which residents fill out any housing related forms, including the “fix it” requests.
The housing representatives at the town hall made sure — on many occasions — that the residents knew that even though Bean East is getting renovated next year, they are still allowed to make changes that will make their residency more comfortable.
Andrews offered headphones to the residents to make studying easier during construction. Opp-Beckman proposed that there be more lighting in the Bean East courtyard at night. Andrews also offered to hold Bean East socials so the tight-knit community aspect doesn’t disappear due to the construction.
After the town hall concluded, most residents agreed that the construction is still an inconvenience; however, after learning what Bean will be like after renovations, the construction will be worth the disruption.