May 3, 2001

A Journey Inside the New Court and Mews Dorms

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Though dirt and debris remain where grass and trees will soon be planted, the University plans to finish construction on its North Campus dorms and Community Commons by the end of the summer.

The construction companies are scheduled to turn all of the buildings over to Cornell by July 15.

“Physically, I’m thrilled with it even more than I expected,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services.

There are two new dorm complexes, Mews Hall and Court Hall. Each dorm complex will be made up of two buildings.

“Court is called Court because it forms a courtyard. Mews is an English term for an alleyway created by two buildings,” said Jean Reese, student services associate who works in the office of student and academic services.

Reese added that if a benefactor decided to pledge a donation toward the North Campus village under construction, one or both of the buildings may bear that donor’s name.

“If someone wanted to make a donation, that would be very nice,” she said.

Three thousand freshmen and 700 upperclassmen will live on North Campus next fall.

In all, the new dorms can house 558 students. About 30 students can live on each corridor. There are two doubles and a single which share one bathroom. The floors are co-ed, though the three-room combinations are not.

The singles measure about 117 square feet, while the doubles are about 203 square feet. According to Reese, the rooms are larger on average than most dorm rooms on West Campus and are comparable to the size of the rooms in the high and low rises on North.

“But, it’s so hard to gauge, because there is no one type of dorm here,” Reese added.

The buildings also have several TV rooms, study rooms and storage spaces. In addition there are several conference rooms which are already reserved for freshman writing seminars. Also built into Mews and Court are faculty-in-residences houses.

There are several more windows in the new residence halls and in Community Corners than in many of the older dorms, including windows in the stairwells, hallways and passageways from one part of the dorm complex to the other.

“That came from student input,” Reese said.

She explained that, during the early phase of the construction, architects created a mock-up of the new dorms in Robert Purcell Community Center (RPCC) and students commented on the pros and cons of the prototype.

Community Corners, the new community center that stands across from Helen Newman Hall, will house a 3,200 square-foot fitness center which will supplement Helen Newman, as well as a marketplace eatery “very similar to Robert Purcell” which will have 625 seats. The building will also feature a mini mart called Ezra’s, a copy center and a school supplies store. Like RPCC, there are also several meeting spaces.

Along with Community Corners dining and Robert Purcell’s Marketplace Eatery, Risley Dining will remain open, Reese assured.

“Those [dining facilities] will feed all 3,700 students, or at least those on meal plan,” Reese said.

Although some students worried that the new dorms would eliminate field space, three soccer-sized fields, four tennis courts and two basketball courts have been added behind Community Corners. In addition the space between the new and old residence halls has created a new courtyard and a semi-circular space between Helen Newman, Mews and Court.

“I really like the [outdoor] spaces that are being created by the residences,” Murphy said.

The buildings are a mixture of brick and Llenroc.

Llenroc, a local rock that spells Cornell backwards, “is a rock that the University likes to use in a lot of its project,” Reese said. The rock comes from local quarries.

Two architectural firms, both out of Philadelphia, designed the residence halls and Community Corners.

“I like how some of the [architectural] lines reflect some of the lines of Balch [Hall],” Murphy said.

Aside from her work on the North Campus development, Reese is also heavily involved in the new West Campus Initiative. She spends 70 percent of her time on West and is “letting go of North Campus.”

That initiative is still in the planning stages.

West Campus plans, submitted by a team headed by Prof. Isaac Kramnick, government, call for five residential houses, with a dining hall and programming specific to each.

Eventually, students will have several housing choices after their freshman year.

“There’s the Greek system, program houses, Collegetown dorms and of course off-campus,” Murphy said. “We’re keeping with the Cornell tradition of having [housing] options.”

Archived article by Maggie Frank