St. Olaf celebrates milestone in Ole Avenue Project with topping out ceremony
Members of the St. Olaf College campus community joined construction crews to mark the topping out of the Ole Avenue Project on September 8. The topping out commemorates the point in construction at which the last beam or truss is placed on a building, signifying that the highest point on the building has been reached. The topping out of the Ole Avenue Project marked a construction milestone on the residence hall portion of the project.
The Ole Avenue Project is a multifaceted plan to transform residential housing for St. Olaf students. The college is building a new 300-bed residence hall on the south side of St. Olaf Avenue, as well as townhouse–style residences with 140 student beds on the north side of St. Olaf Avenue. The project will be completed in the fall of 2022 and will be a new gateway to St. Olaf on the eastern edge of campus.
“The Ole Avenue Project will create a neighborhood at the foot of the Hill,” says St. Olaf College President David R. Anderson ’74. “The Ole Avenue Project represents our biggest investment in living space for students in many years. It reaffirms our commitment to residentiality as key to the St. Olaf experience.”
The Ole Avenue Project represents our biggest investment in living space for students in many years. It reaffirms our commitment to residentiality as key to the St. Olaf experience.President David R. Anderson ’74
The $60 million project will help St. Olaf address a longstanding housing shortage on campus and rising maintenance costs related to campus honor houses, while also investing in renovations of existing on-campus housing.
The site plan was designed by Workshop Architects, is being built by The Boldt Company, and ICS construction consulting serves as an owner’s representative. Work began in February 2021.
“This group works as a highly functioning team, willing to question and problem solve together,” says St. Olaf College Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jan Hanson. “And don’t forget — the majority of the planning for this project was done virtually in Zoom meetings during a global pandemic. I am so proud of the progress that was made to bring this project to reality amidst what at times felt like insurmountable hurdles.”
Boldt CEO and St. Olaf alumnus Tom Boldt ’74 said the project will provide a long-term housing solution for the college and a welcoming master plan for the community.
“We are proud to help St. Olaf create a campus for the future,” Boldt says. “This project will have a transformative impact for generations of students enrolling at St. Olaf and the residents of the campus community.”
The new residence hall will be 80,000 square feet of living areas for 300 students on three floor levels and includes an 8,000 square foot health services area. The hall features shared living spaces with fireplaces, kitchens, and study lounges. The project also includes 14 new town house units that each can house 10 students in comfortable, residential-style living spaces. All new construction will meet today’s standards for fire safety, accessibility, egress, indoor air quality, and other essentials, including allowing the college to have a more gender inclusive approach to housing students.
For St. Olaf the project reduces the density of student housing. “Having fewer students living off campus in the city of Northfield provides more opportunities for our juniors and seniors to interact with and mentor our new students on campus,” says Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Pamela McDowell.
St. Olaf students and community residents have helped inform the development of this project over the past two years by participating in surveys, focus groups, and community meetings about the college’s existing on-campus housing and needs for the future. The master plan also includes 200 additional parking stalls, green space, and other improvements to promote interaction and community.