Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the college investing such a significant amount of money into housing?

The college’s housing situation was not sustainable due to overcrowding and mounting maintenance costs for the honor houses. This problem became even more acute due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ole Avenue Project creates an opportunity for the college to renovate its existing on-campus housing. This is a critical investment in the residential experience that defines a St. Olaf education.

Why couldn’t the honor houses be renovated?

The honor houses were initially built for private, residential use. They were not designed to accommodate students or serve the needs of a residential college. The extensive renovations the honor houses needed would have reduced the number of beds available in these structures and still not resulted in housing that meets today’s standards.

Will the programming associated with honor houses remain?

Service programs associated with the honor houses will be suspended during construction. Programming associated with the Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion and academic departments will continue. The new town houses offer an opportunity to redevelop our honor house program. We look forward to working with students to further develop the program around the new town houses.

What has happened to the President’s House on the site of the project?

The President’s House has been demolished and the president’s residence has been relocated to temporary housing off campus. The college will explore opportunities for a new residence on campus that is more modern, efficient, and suitable for the president’s duties. While the President’s House is considered a “working asset” just like any other building on campus that supports the college’s mission, it is not part of this project. The role of a college president requires a residence in which they can host notable groups, cultivate donors, and promote collegiate philanthropy.

Were any of the honor houses or the President’s House protected for their historic status?

None of these houses were protected for their historic status.

Will the college be able to repurpose any part of the honor houses or the President’s House?

The college contracted a company to salvage doors, trim boards, plumbing fixtures, electrical items, cabinets, and flooring from the houses.

How will the project meet the college’s commitment to the environment and sustainability?

The new buildings will offer improved energy efficiency, especially when compared to the honor houses.

Will counseling services be disrupted during construction?

No. The Counseling Center will temporarily relocate to Rolvaag Memorial Library. The Kierkegaard Library and staff will be moving to Steensland Hall as the Kierkegaard Library’s permanent location. The Counseling Center will move into the space in Rolvaag Memorial Library that is vacated by Kierkegaard staff. The Counseling Center and Health Services will relocate to the east wing of the new residence hall once construction is complete in the fall of 2022.

Who will live in the new residence hall?

The new residence hall will primarily house juniors and seniors. Living together in community lies at the core of the Ole experience and the college’s “intensely residential” culture. The project will serve as an important link between the core campus and internship opportunities in Northfield and other communities for juniors and seniors, which often require students to be closer to town.

How will the project address accessibility?

Each of the new facilities will be fully compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, unlike the honor houses and some residence halls. They will fully meet today’s standards for fire safety, accessibility, egress, indoor air quality, and other student needs. Access to the Hill is available through a dedicated elevator in Holland Hall. There will be dedicated parking locations for handicap parking.

Have students, faculty, staff, and the community been involved in the planning process?

Yes. The college’s planning has been shaped by listening to members of the community over more than two years about existing on-campus housing and future needs. Additionally, the college hosted a public meeting with neighbors in person on the field below Old Main on September 21, 2020, and also an informational webinar on December 21, 2020.