Structural issues in Arts Haus force residents to relocate

The Department of Facilities Services on Feb. 9 during a routine inspection of the Bartol House, commonly known as the Arts Haus, discovered split floor joists, forcing students living in the residence to move out the next day.

“We were fairly surprised,” Arts Haus president Luke Boelitz said. “We’d known for a long time that there was something weird about the floor in the living room, but it has been abnormal for so long that we just didn’t consider it might be a legitimate problem.”

The joists likely split in the living room floor because too many students had been in the area at once, Director of Facilities Services Bob Burns said.

Residents received an email from the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) Director Yolanda King the morning of Feb. 10 alerting them that they had to organize their belongings to temporarily move to Hillside Apartments later that day. With only a few hours to pack, students stuffed what they could into a few cars and drove it uphill, Boelitz, a senior, said.

“I was so stunned that my initial reaction was to keep doing my laundry and work since I didn’t know what else to do,” Anna Troein, a sophomore resident, said. “Obviously, when it sunk in that we had to move out, it quickly changed to deciding what I needed and what I could leave behind, as well as figuring out how to move all my things.”

After the students were out of the house, a structural engineer surveyed the issues in order to inform the Department of Facilities Services about what specific elements of the house needed to be fixed, Residential Facilities Coordinator Jennifer Bevins said. In an email to Arts Haus residents, Bevins said a contractor would begin work on the house on Feb. 27.

“Both ResLife and Facilities have been really helpful in trying to ensure the smoothest possible transition,” Troein said. “It’s not an easy situation for anyone, especially since it happened so suddenly. I really appreciate the effort they have put into helping us.”

In addition to restoring the floor, the contractor replaced some of the heating system, Boelitz said. Once the electrical work on the house is complete, the structural engineer said it might be possible for the Arts Haus residents to return to their home at the Bartol House later this week, Bevins said.

“I think everyone will be excited to move back,” Boelitz said. “Obviously it’s the best situation for us. I think most important is that we’ll all be living together under the same roof and we’ll have more space. That’s going to be a big relief.”

The Department of Facilities Services is in the process of investigating the cause of the structural problems in the Bartol House as well as determining who will pay for the repairs.

“The floor has been bouncy in the living room for as long as I’ve lived in the house,” Boelitz said. “When you jump on it, it feels like a trampoline. It’s definitely gotten worse in the last year.”

While contractors work to repair the structure of the Bartol House, female Arts Haus residents are living in a Hillsides suite while the male residents are scattered around the building in spare rooms, Boelitz said.He added that though the environment is not their first choice, these students named their temporary homes “the Arts Haus on Vacation.”

“The Arts Haus is very much about the community, and it’s difficult to sustain the same level of community when half of the house is living in different suites,” Troein said. “However, it’s really been a bonding experience, and I definitely think that I am closer to everyone in the house and make sure I see everyone because of this.”