April 23, 2004

Dean recommends closing Shoreland

The fate of the Shoreland seems all but certain, as vice president and dean of students, Steve Klass, sent a letter of recommendation to President Don Randel and Provost Richard Saller this week advising the decommissioning of the Shoreland as an undergraduate dormitory.

While not an official document, the letter all but seals the University's decision on the Shoreland and makes a heavy impression on the Board of Trustees, which will make the ultimate conclusion about the hotel-turned-dorm.

Klass's recommendation, dated April 21, effectively advised that the Shoreland be closed, and it called for the development of a new, on-campus dorm to house the 650 students that would be displaced by the closing.

Although Klass addressed concerns from students and alumni that the Shoreland was an anchor for Housing, he said the reasons to close the Shoreland—including mounting upkeep costs and a seeming drop in popularity among students—were too strong.

"Over the next thirty years it would cost more to renovate and operate the Shoreland than it would to construct and maintain a new residence hall with the same number of beds," the recommendation said. "At the same time, the Shoreland has seen a proportionate decline in popularity, measured in terms of the first or second choices of incoming students and in the return rates of older students."

Klass said that recent city building codes have resulted in substantial renovation to the Shoreland's facade, which alone could exceed $20 million.

Quinn Carey, a second-year in the College and the coordinator of the Save the Shoreland Organization, expressed her disappointment at Klass's decision, saying that the Shoreland's closing will decrease the amount of housing options and drive students away from student housing into apartments—a starkly different forecast than that of Klass, who envisions that a centralization of the student body might entice upperclassmen to stay in the dorms.

"I cannot deny that closing the Shoreland as a student dorm is probably the best decision from the perspective of the goals and values resulting from the Master Plan." Carey said. "However, my personal belief is that the Master Plan, while important and beneficial to the campus community as a whole, should not be allowed to eliminate other types of community, such as that which can be found at the Shoreland, due to its location, room sizes, etc."

Klass has said that the next phase of the campus Master Plan is for a new dorm facility on campus, to further centralization the student body and possibly provide more of an incentive for upperclassmen to stay in housing.

"We do believe that having a variety of architectural, geographic, and room- style offerings is also important to our program," Klass said. "We wouldn't have continued to pour millions of dollars into the Shoreland over the past several years if our goal was simply to move all housing closer to campus."

University Housing Staff has been working with the architectural firm Kieran Timberlake Associates to try to capture the positive elements of the Shoreland architecturally and socially.

So far, Housing is considering building a 1000-room dorm south of Burton-Judson or building a 700-room dorm behind B-J and a 300-room dorm adjacent to Pierce.

The other off-campus dorms—Broadview, Stony Island, and Maclean—will remain in student housing as long as they are economically viable to the University.

While an actual decision on the Shoreland has not been reached, Hank Webber, vice president for community and government affairs has met with Hyde Park community leaders and real estate developers to look into redeveloping the Shoreland into a private residential building, possibly high-end condominiums.

The Shoreland is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and strict limitations on its use are in place.

Many current Shoreland residents, like first-year Matt Oxenford, are disenchanted by the University's proposed closing. They cite the Shoreland's uniqueness and close-knit multi-year community.

"I know a lot of people who are afraid (the new dorm) will be a cookie-cutter copy of Max Palevsky and that the end goal of the University is to get rid of any meaningful differentiation between each dorm experience," Oxenford said. "The large rooms and private kitchens are unique to Shoreland, and if the College wanted to keep the current level of diversity in rooming accommodations, the new dorms would have such amenities."

Carey, who mobilized many in her house, Hale House, to participate in the Save the Shoreland campaign, said the administration disregarded the sentiments of Shoreland students to keep their beloved dorm open.

"The administration has expressed its preference for closing the Shoreland," Carey said. "Since our thoughts on the matter seemed to have little effect on their perspective, it seemed the only thing that could prevent the Shoreland from closing would be if they can't sell the place.