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Cornell College Announces $10 Million in Residence Hall Renovations

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MT. VERNON, Iowa - Cornell College announced on Monday that it plans to spend $10 million in updates and renovations to its aging residence halls over a 15-month period, starting this May.

In a news release, Cornell's digital news director Jamie Kelly said that the project, which is made possible by outright gifts from members of the college's Board of Trustees and their families, will completely renovate and modernize Pauley, Rorem, Tarr, and Dows halls, four residence halls built in the 1960s that house a total of about 300 students.

Kelly added that the renovations will include more inviting entrances and patios for each building, more natural light and activity spaces, new and expanded bathrooms, and upgrades to student rooms, including new flooring, lighting and furniture.

"They're not very welcoming, not a lot of people spend a lot of time in them," said Sarah Feldman, a first-year student, of the residence hall lounges. She spends about 4 hours every day studying for her theater and sociology major, and she's looking forward to having a spot closer to her room to do that.

"Living in a first-year residence hall, I think definite improvements could be made, and they are, and that's really great that the college is putting their money where it needs to go," Feldman told us.

Cornell College president Jonathan Brand said the college's board of trustees listened to student complaints, and took them to heart.

"They told us these facilities are not meeting our expectations at the level that the rest of this campus is," Brand told us.

As part of the college's strategic plan, Dows, Tarr, Rorem, and Pauley Halls will receive high-efficiency lighting, heating, and cooling upgrades.

Brand hopes that will turn these aging buildings into places where students want to spend time.

"They need healthy, vibrant, relaxing spaces that not only encourage them to do what they want to do, which is study and interact with each other, but also gives them places where they can socialize and enjoy," Brand explained.

Themes of recreation, music and food will be incorporated into the halls. That will include a kitchen, and a performance stage. Brand said their exteriors will also be redone to match the rest of campus's historic architecture.

"Circulation paths, pedestrian pathways, patios, all trying to make it look like they fit in," Brand said.

The work will begin after commencement in May, and finish up sometime in August 2015.

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