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Dormzilla D.O.A.

At yesterday’s meeting of the faculty, Phil announced that Dormzilla would not be built. It would just be too expensive, he said, to construct the 750-bed facility. Well, well.

“We have now determined the cost of building 750 beds is simply beyond our financial capacity. That project is just off; we just can’t afford it.”

Is that the real reason? I mean, even as clueless a bunch as the folks in the Hanlon administration had to know from the git-go that the structure was going to be immensely costly. How could they not?

Dartblog’s contributor yesterday opined that the dorm would easily run $100 million, a point that anyone in the building trades could make simply by taking the expected square footage of the project and multiplying it by a predictable $cost/ft². Add to that fact an observation that my contributor also made: the College Park site has obvious exposed ledge, which means a great deal of blasting and rock-moving would be required to put up the building. He wrote:

Granite ledge is visible at the surface throughout the study area. Blasting to remove ledge for building foundations and utilities will cost millions and will add months to what would already be a long, complex construction project.

The unacceptable cost of the project was evident to anyone who was thinking.

This debâcle reminds me of a family that is in the market for a new car, and they spend six months looking at the four-seater Ferrari California — trunk size, gas mileage, cost of repairs and insurance, etc. — only to conclude after much analysis that they can’t afford the initial purchase price of the car, a fact that any babe in arms could have told them on day one.

As we have noted endlessly, Phil’s fundraising is not going well. That fact alone would have put pressure on the College. In addition, if the administration had tried to finance the project with an outside participant, you can expect that anyone with green eyeshades and a sharp pencil would have shied away from Phil’s idea. Not much return on investment from such an expensive project — even given the College’s skyhigh room fees.

Dare we hope that the petitions and protest letters and maybe even blog posts caused the administration to see common sense? Nah. Phil is much too arrogant to be swayed by the views of little people.

So where do we go from here? Phil said that the alternative way to create swing space, so that the Choates and River Cluster may be closed, is to construct new dorms at widely spaced locations on campus. Even now, his folks are scouting for spaces in which to shoehorn students.

Addendum: I once drove a Ferrari California in Maranello. Good fun.

Addednum: Read the College’s press release here. And The D’s report on the faculty meeting.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in (wittily):

I read Dartblog’s 2/26/18 “Dormzilla” post about Dartmouth’s proposed new, 750-bed dorm and think that the College Park site would be more suitable for Section 8 housing, or, perhaps, a privately operated medium-security prison.

Addendum: And another (acidly):

Just saw the news. Thanks. One idiotic Hanlon idea down, still several to go.

Seriously, whoever proposed this and authorized wasting six figures on the study should be fired immediately. So should the staff that went along with it.

Think they’ll reach the same conclusion/announcement about expanding the student body? Then just add 100 ‘shmen to each class?

Addendum: And another (sincerely):

To paraphrase a classmate on social media, it’s too bad that the College couldn’t have thought through the Dormzilla demise a little more thoroughly. This could have been a feel-good story about how the College truly does value input and appreciates all of the concerns expressed.

Addendum: And another (agitatedly):

I think it’s pathetic that the College characterized its inability to build new dorms or renovate old ones as a cost issue. Yale built two new residential colleges recently and Vanderbilt—with a smaller endowment than Dartmouth—is adding 4 new residential colleges (each housing 330 students) for $600 million after recently completing a $115 million residential project on campus. Prospective students (and their parents) are savvy consumers. For $70,000 a year, they rightfully expect to have suitable housing. If Dartmouth doesn’t make those kind of long-term investments in residential life, we will continue to lose applicants to our peer institutions that do.


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