A Commitment to Community
This fall St. Olaf College celebrated the completion of the Ole Avenue Project, a significant investment in campus housing that features a new residence hall and townhouses along St. Olaf Avenue.
The project has not only created a beautiful new gateway to St. Olaf on the eastern edge of campus, but it has also enabled the college to address a three-decades-long housing shortage and begin renovations to existing residence halls.
“The opening of this new housing immediately impacted every single residence we have on campus,” says Pamela McDowell, who oversaw residence life during the construction of the Ole Avenue Project and now serves as the college’s Title IX and Section 504 coordinator.
Making this investment in campus housing is important, McDowell notes, because so much of the St. Olaf experience happens as students live in community with one another. “When I look at this project, I see lifelong friendships. I see our community,” she says.
That’s exactly what the Ole Avenue Project’s design team wanted people to see in the new housing, says Workshop Architects owner Jan van den Kieboom, whose firm designed the $60 million project that houses 440 students. He points out that the key architectural features of the new housing are the spaces where students come together to cook, study, relax, and socialize.
“Togetherness is what this project is all about,” he says. “It’s what drove the thinking behind what we now see.”
At St. Olaf we believe that the deepest learning happens in community with other learners. That’s why when students enroll at our college we gather them together on our campus for four years of living and learning in community. That means studying together, discussing together, working on projects together, eating together, and living together. The Ole Avenue Project confirms our ongoing commitment to this model.President David R. Anderson ’74
While the rooms in the new residence hall on the south side of St. Olaf Avenue are purposely similar to the sizes of other rooms on campus, the community spaces are bigger, brighter, and designed to bring students together. Large kitchens, ample seating options, and a variety of meeting spaces and nooks give students plenty of spaces to gather in groups large and small.
Across the road on the north side of St. Olaf Avenue, the same intentionality was applied to new townhouse-style residences that house 140 students. Built to give students greater independence, they provide living and dining spaces that enable cohorts of students to live with roommates in much the same way they will after graduation.
St. Olaf Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jan Hanson says all of the key partners in the project — from the St. Olaf Facilities team led by Kevin Larson to the Boldt Construction crew led by Tom Boldt ’74 to the Workshop Architects group led by van den Kieboom— kept the needs of students at the center of their work, even as they faced the challenges of completing the project during a global pandemic marked with supply chain issues. “The willingness to be flexible and solve problems in a manner that never lost sight of the student perspective was phenomenal,” she says.