Menlo College broke ground on its new $20 million 288-bed residence hall with some ceremonial tossing of dirt on the Atherton campus on May 13.
This will be the first new housing built on the campus in more than 30 years, Angela Schmiede, vice president for student success and chair of the pandemic planning team at the four-year private college,told the Atherton City Council last month. Two anonymous donors are funding the college's sixth residence hall, an April 6 blog post states.
Schmiede said the three-story housing project will expand affordable housing for students and reduce traffic congestion to and from the campus.
The T-shaped hall will be home to nearly 300 students in double-occupancy rooms. There will also be six single-occupancy rooms for resident advisers. The building will also include shared kitchens, game rooms and lounges on each floor, Menlo College President Steve Weiner said. The building does not replace any existing infrastructure at Menlo, which was established in 1927, but takes advantage of available space in the middle of the residence hall area of campus.
"It's a great moment for Menlo College," Weiner said of the groundbreaking.
Mayor Elizabeth Lewis called the new project "historic" and noted that the "new dorm will provide much needed on-campus housing for new and returning students thereby reducing the amount of car traffic coming and going to the college."
"The diversity of the student body provides cross-culture pollination and better understanding of our world," she said in an email. "I am very excited to see the project underway and look forward to its completion."
The building design will echo the facade of Kratt Hall, which it will sit next to, Weiner said.
School officials have yet to determine which students will live in the new housing. Weiner said it's possible that the housing will be set aside for upperclassmen so they can "conclude their journey at Menlo College" living on campus.
The City Council greenlighted the project last summer, which the school aims to complete by April 2022. Site preparation began in February.
The housing will not count toward the state's 2023-31 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) targets for Atherton, Town Planner Lisa Costa Sanders said at an April 28 joint City Council and Planning Commission meeting.
"Student housing, specifically dorms, do not count towards the town's RHNA housing production as it is not considered permanent housing," Costa Sanders said in a May 17 email. "To be counted as a housing unit, each unit must contain cooking facilities, a bathroom and a sleeping area. The dorms do not include cooking facilities and a bathroom with each sleeping room."
State legislation would need to change in order for dorms to count toward the town's housing goals, Costa Sanders explained.
The college hosted its 93rd commencement ceremony, with about 650 people in attendance, on May 15 for both the classes of 2020 and 2021, since last year's graduates did not have a graduation ceremony because of the pandemic.
"Boy, was it something to celebrate," Weiner said, noting that the ceremony was three hours long versus the typical two-hour ceremony because it honored the two classes. "It was a milestone event in the lives of all these people."
Graduates were able to bring two guests, and families sat in distanced pods on the quad, Schmiede said. The ceremony was also streamed online. Typical post-ceremony gatherings were canceled. Graduates were required to verify a negative COVID-19 test before the ceremony.