Since May, Miller Hall — one of Tufts’ 11 residence halls that house first-years — has been undergoing massive construction. According to the university’s Operations Division website, Miller is being renovated to have new elevators, accessible common spaces and safety code upgrades, among other improvements.
Construction on Miller Hall is slated to be complete in December, though students are currently living in its east wing, which was renovated over the summer. After Miller is fully renovated, current residents of Houston Hall’s east wing will move to Miller’s west wing for the second semester. Houston will then undergo construction and be fully renovated by August 2019.
Joshua Hartman, director of the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL), is optimistic that the renovations to Miller Hall will create a more inviting atmosphere for residents.
“The significant construction in Miller will greatly improve the building physically and also allow for better use of space overall,” Hartman said. “The project will add in an elevator, making the building far more accessible than it had been. Additionally, the lounge and study space on each floor will be expanded, and there will be far more natural light in the open spaces, given the glass facade that will be one of the architectural highlights of the new design.”
Hartman noted that since Miller Hall was built in 1959, its appearance was darker and more old-fashioned compared to many of Tufts’ newer residence halls. Aesthetically, Miller was in need of a brighter appearance, according to Hartman.
“Before the renovation, Miller was dark in the hallways, bathrooms were in need of some freshening up and the common spaces were not conducive to community building,” Hartman said. “Our design and construction team has done a phenomenal job at making [it] far more comfortable and welcoming for its residents.”
While students living in both Miller and Houston Halls are looking forward to the new amenities, some Miller residents feel that the renovations have had a negative impact on their first semester at Tufts. Residents have been forced to deal with loud morning construction and a dearth of common rooms. Rachel Wang, a first-year Miller resident, explained that while she is looking forward to the new additions, construction work has often hindered her daily routine.
“It has been frustrating to wake up to hammering and drilling noises,” Wang said. “I am typically not able to study in my room because the construction noises can definitely make it hard to focus.”
Hartman explained that efforts to reduce construction noise in the morning have minimized disturbances, as compared to the beginning of the semester.
“Construction activities are not permitted to start too early in the morning,” he said. “While we did have some moments early in the semester when construction noise disrupted residents … in the early morning hours, our construction team is very responsive to feedback and has worked to ensure that loud work does not start until later.”
In addition to shifting the times at which heavy construction occurs, ORLL has made efforts to foster social life in the residence halls. To make up for Miller Hall’s current lack of a common room, Hartman explained that temporary spaces have been created for first-year students to socialize.
“On each floor in Miller, there are two rooms that are set up temporarily to be common/lounge spaces,” Hartman said. “These two rooms per floor, which directly border the half of the building still under construction, will be turned into resident rooms at the completion of the project. But until the common spaces are ready, we wanted to be sure that there was some space outside of individual rooms for students to hang out, study and socialize.”
As construction on Houston Hall will begin promptly after Miller is finished, many Houston residents will move to Miller for the spring semester. According to the university’s Student Life website, a professional moving team will transfer students’ belongings transferred between the dorms at the end of the fall semester. Information sessions about the moving process will be held throughout the fall semester.
Many current Houston residents are excited for the move, since it will presents an opportunity to meet new people and take advantage of Miller Hall’s new amenities. Logan Herodes, a first-year assistant in Houston Hall, believes the change will be a positive experience.
“I think it’s going to be fun to experience another building with updated features and get a chance to reinvent our rooms as we unpack again,” Herodes, a junior, said.
However, moving into the newly renovated Miller Hall also poses challenges for students. Sarah Unterberger, a first-year Houston resident, is excited to move into the renovated dorm but worries that it will be difficult to adjust to a new environment.
“I believe it [will be] intimidating to move to a new environment when I’ve grown pretty comfortable at Houston. I like the people in my hall,” Unterberger said. “Thankfully I [will] keep my roommate. I do not want to stress about moving my things and worrying about losing something. It feels like a weight on my shoulders thinking about it. Hopefully the move will go smoothly and people will be accepting, which I’m sure they will be.”
While the process of renovating Miller and Houston halls has sparked mixed feelings among the student body and has proved difficult to adjust to, Wang believes that the upgrades will ultimately have a positive impact on first-year residential life.
“I’m looking forward to having a common room for next semester, so we can have a space to socialize and get to know the other people in our dorm better,” Wang said. “I’m also excited to meet new people who lived in Houston first semester.”