Douglas Hall will be closed in 2013-2014. (Michael Paolucci / McGill Tribune)
Douglas Hall will be closed in 2013-2014. (Michael Paolucci / McGill Tribune)

Douglas Hall to close for renovations during 2013-2014

a/News by

Douglas Hall, McGill’s oldest student residence, will close for renovations during the 2013-2014 academic year. According to Robert Stanley, director of project management for McGill’s Facilities Operations and Development office, they  are scheduled to begin in May, and should be completed in July 2014.

According to Stanley, the project has been planned for several years. The upgrades to Douglas Hall are part of a four-year period of renovations to McGill’s residences, intended to “modernize facilities and address outstanding deferred maintenance issues.”

Stanley added that the upgrades to Douglas Hall are possible because of the newly available rooms at La Citadelle, a residence which opened last September. Douglas Hall normally houses 179 students, but will remain vacant for the 2013-2014 school year.

Stanley, Douglas Hall Director Michael Hoover, and McGill Residences and Student Housing (MRSH) Executive Director Michael Porritt confirmed that the renovations are not a result of urgent safety concerns, but rather an effort to modernize the existing infrastructure. According to Hoover and Porritt, the building’s systems are in need of replacement and repair.

“The building was built in the mid 1920s, and it has not had very much work done to it beyond daily maintenance,” Porritt said.

“We are beginning to have leaks from the roof, and from cracks in the masonry,” Hoover said. “The repairs to the chimneys last year revealed that the problems … were more serious than we had thought. The sense is that [the renovations] really cannot be put off any longer.”

The majority of the work will be done to Douglas Hall’s exterior.Plans include replacing the slate and copper roof, restoring or replacing all the windows, and repairing the masonry.

“[The] new windows and casements … should increase the energy efficiency of the building, as well as making sure it remains weatherproof,” Hoover said.

The interior of the residence will also undergo extensive upgrades, including an improved ventilation system in the bathrooms, new furniture, and an expanded kitchen area in the basement.

According to Porritt, the majority of the furniture in the building will also be replaced, the kitchen will be upgraded and modernized, and the student kitchen area in the basement will be expanded.

“The building will look very close to its condition in the mid-1920’s,” Porritt said. “[There will not be] any major changes in the function of any areas.”

“There is every effort being made to keep Douglas, Douglas,” Hoover said. “[MRSH] is treating Douglas as a heritage building, which should be kept as it is.”

According to Stanley, the project is expected to cost between $13 and $15 million. The final budget will be confirmed in February or March.

Douglas Hall floor fellow Rachel Nam, and Douglas Hall President Erin Sobat said that both last year’s and this year’s residents were consulted on the renovations.

“The students of last year had a walkthrough with the administration, and were … asked whether they were okay with the proposed plans, and if there [was] anything else they wanted done to the building,” Nam said. “I think the students requested that no unnecessary renovations be done to the building that would change it drastically, and that the integrity of the building stay the same.”

“This year, we’ve had a number of opportunities to meet with David Balcombe, associate director of buildings and facilities for [MRSH], to talk further about the project as more details are established,” Sobat said.

Porritt said that current Douglas Hall residents should not be disrupted by the construction. However, Douglas Hall floor fellow Miguel Esteban noted that Douglas students were already affected last Fall by preliminary renovations to the building.

“There were a few construction [projects] from the summer … that weren’t completed in time and created some inconveniences,” Esteban said. “There was scaffolding over H-House that was taken down just in time for move-in day, but equipment was still in the way. When the equipment was moved away, there was a big patch of dirt that created a mud pit when it rained and caused some problems.”

Hoover and Porritt were optimistic about the renovations, and said the residence should reopen as scheduled for the 2014-2015 academic year.