New ERC campus opens its doors

    After five years of planning and building, the new Eleanor Roosevelt College site opened its doors to students on move-in day, Sept. 20. The $106 million project includes a renovated International House, resident halls, apartments and townhouses, as well as the collegeís own dining facility.

    New digs: Eleanor Roosevelt College students moved onto a brand new campus on Sept. 20. Budget constraints had pushed back its opening for over a year.

    Located aside the RIMAC Arena and adjacent to North Torrey Pines Road, the new site of Roosevelt houses 1,240 students, including 729 incoming freshman for the 2003-04 school year. It is the first time an entire college has been built on the UCSD campus at one time, and is the largest and most costly construction project the university has yet sponsored.

    Construction was still going on full-force in the days preceding move-in day, and while there was some concern by ERC staff that ìnoncrucial componentsî of the building, such as elevators, might not be ready for students moving in, everything was done by Sept. 20 and move-in day went smoothly, according to Roosevelt resident advisors.

    Three major facilities that are not finished are the new dining commons, CafÈ Ventanas, the Middle Earth Lounge and Residence Life. According to senior super attendant Keith Whaley, the dining hall opening is ìa week or two outî from move-in day.

    Students moving in had to take some detours due to the ongoing construction.

    ìThe buildings are really pretty and really big, and the layout is pretty good. The construction is hard to get around, but otherwise itís well-organized, other than everything looking the same,î said Roosevelt freshman Lori Kennington. ìThe staff that has been directing people has been really helpful telling people where to park and go because of the construction.î

    The college was built and designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who is celebrated for his worldwide projects, including those at Harvard University, in Montreal, Quebec and even Jerusalem. His firm teamed with daughter Taal Safdie of Safdie Rabines Architects in San Diego to build the college. Taal Safdie explained that while creative control was given to the architect and his firm, the university had already taken steps to ensure the desired quality of the college. She asserted that while the architect designed the college, the actual program was developed by the university. Both university and firm, however, aimed to ìcreate a sense of a villageî by organizing the buildings around pedestrian streets, gardens and plazas. ìThe outdoor spaces are in a way more important than the indoor,î Taal Safdie said.

    Ideas for building a new housing facility on campus were first proposed in the mid-1990s. Roosevelt Provost Ann Craig explained that the decision to build a college was made shortly after and university planning seriously began during the 1997-98 school year. The architect was then chosen and began preparation work in 1998. The proposal for the structure was accepted in June 1999 by the UC Board of Regents, and has since journeyed through several remodels and budget cuts. Construction of the site was originally aimed to begin in the fall of 2000, but was delayed until 2001 due to budget concerns.

    ìWhen the designed project went out to bid to contractors, their bids came back substantially above the construction budget,î Craig said. ìThe architect was required to redraw parts of the design to reduce project costs.î

    Taal Safdie also described the trouble in predicting costs due to the fluctuating economy in San Diego from the time of the initial proposal in the mid-90s to the actual commencement of construction in 2001. Because of these variable concerns, the finish date of the site was pushed back from June 2002 to September 2003.

    Although a year-long delay interrupted the planned schedule of the new college, Roosevelt Business Manager Barbara Blomgren defended the postponement.

    ìThousands of people have been working on this for a very long time, and we just hope that residents will have patience,î Blomgren said.

    Despite the possibility of further delay on the finished product of the ERC building, many students and faculty alike are praising its design and convenience.

    ìItís beautiful,î resident advisor Oliver Chang said. ìInside itís by far the best housing on campusÖ they took a lot of student input ó thereís a lot of new little luxuries.î

    These ìlittle luxuriesî include desks with contractible flaps, wall-mounted lighting (as opposed to overhead fluorescent lighting) and ergonomic chairs, a change that will be welcomed by those who disliked the previous hardwood chairs in the dorm rooms.

    In addition, the preference for single bedrooms was answered in the four-occupant apartments that contain four single-occupant bedrooms.

    ìMy new room is bigger than my room in my house,î Kennington said.

    Craig expressed her excitement for the college, whose previous location was insufficient to house the number of ERC students and forced the university to distribute the student overflow throughout the campus.

    ìThis will completely transform the environment in which we work. We are all very excited about having a single, consolidated, identifiable college neighborhood which can be a comfortable and engaging home base for our students,î she said.

    Taal Safdie also maintained that while the budget cuts necessitated certain changes in minor elements of the buildings, nothing was fundamentally affected, and a previously planned conference center to be located beneath the dining facility was the only space eliminated.

    For the most part, that redesign involved building elements that students never see ó building framework and mechanical systems, for example,î Craig said.

    The ERC site will not be sufficient to accommodate campuswide student growth, according to Craig, which will be increasing from last yearís 22,100 students to a record 23,500 students.

    ìThe campus will need to build additional spaces, not for ERC but for the larger campus,î Craig said.

    As for student parking, residents of the new ERC site will be able to park in the Pangea Parking Structure, as well as in Lot 351.

    The new Roosevelt College will be celebrating its Grand Opening between October 6 and 11. The celebration will include guest speakers Samantha Power on Oct. 6 and Moshe Safdie on Oct. 10, as well as a Global Village Street Fair on Oct. 11.

    With additional reporting by Gaelle Faure

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