The Porter quad, once grassy and scattered with groups of students socializing and playing music, is now replaced with concrete and chain-link fences. A large plastic sheet veils the unfinished face of the empty A-building, while B-building is immersed in a layer of scaffolding composed of poles and ladders crawling with construction workers. The jarring cacophony of jackhammers and electric saws accompany the noises of the trucks rolling through the quad.
It’s a completely different atmosphere from the relaxed, free-spirited Porter that residents of previous years have known. The estimated $80 million project is intended to upgrade the dorms to withstand earthquakes as well as house more students.
“The buildings were old,” said Michael Yamauchi-Gleason, the Porter College administrative officer (CAO). “There was a need to provide more bed space without creating a new building.”
This has not gone as smoothly as predicted, however.
Over the course of last week’s rainstorms, water leaked into areas where B-building was uncovered. The resulting water damage necessitated the need for carpeting and drywall to be redone. A total of 13 rooms were damaged in the corners of the building and 19 students had to switch to empty rooms on their floor at Porter’s B-building.
For Stephanie Logan, a Porter fourth-year residential advisor living on the sixth floor, this was her second time having to move in one month.
“It’s unsettling to have your stuff in boxes,” Logan said. “It doesn’t really feel like I’m at home. It’s hard because I realize there’s human error and problems arise, but it’s frustrating to be told to wait and wait and wait. I’m pleased with how the building turned out, but at the same time, I don’t know.”
The repairs are estimated to take about two weeks, according to Yamauchi-Gleason. Students displaced by this incident have the option of permanently staying in the room they have been moved to or moving back when the repairs are finished. Logan plans on staying in her new room for the rest of the school year.
Deadlines have also been an issue throughout construction.
In the contract the construction of B-building, which began this past April, was supposed to have been finished by the beginning of fall quarter.
It is now predicted that B-building will be finished the first week of November. However, according to Project Superintendent Bob Colhour, the entire worksite surrounding B-building will not be complete until next summer, including the outdoor stage and landscaping.
Located adjacent to the Porter mailroom, the B-building dorm received an additional floor. However, measurements were miscalculated, which resulted in the sixth floor having to be re-done.
Due to the delay in the construction, residents of the sixth floor were not able to move in to their assigned rooms during the first week of school and were notified only a week in advance that their rooms were not ready. Eighty-six students were relocated to empty rooms on the first floor of the Porter B-building and 38 students to College Eight.
Although it’s now five weeks into the quarter, the B-building still smells of paint and dust and so far lacks proper covering in the corners of each hall to keep drafts from entering the building.
One student who saw residents entering and exiting B- building while passing through the quad, whispered to a friend, “Whoa, people actually live in there? That’s crazy.”
Clark Steward, a first-year Porter student who resides in one of the unfinished dorms, commented on the nature of living in a construction zone.
“I’m being woken up by nail guns at 7 a.m.,” Steward said. “At least they stopped jackhammering on the sixth floor.”
His solution: ear plugs.
“You just get used to it,” Steward said. “I don’t spend much time here, to be honest.”
The A-building dorms, which received two additional floors and are located on the opposite side of the quad across from B-building, are scheduled to be able to house students by fall 2010, though cosmetic updates will likely still be going on by then.
The Porter-Kresge dining hall, Hungry Slug Cafe and the art galleries that make up Building-C are scheduled to open Jan. 23, 2010 and are so far on track. Right now, it gives off the semblance of a barn lacking a floor and an interior, a mere shell of a building with its insides open to the outside elements.
Part of the delay was due to buildings not being fully designed and the unavailability of window shades and other construction materials.
“We are pretty pleased that we could deliver as much as we have,” Yamauchi-Gleason said. “On the whole, we’ve received very few complaints from both students and parents.”
Chelsea Holman, a Porter residential adviser and third-year student, feels like the Porter community has changed due to the construction.
“That’s what Porter was about: the quad,” Holman said.
She notes that community events have been moved to the alley and I-lounge, areas near the Porter apartments.
Generally, amidst all of the complications that the construction has posed, the students inhabiting this concrete jungle seem to have come to terms with the living conditions.
“It’s frustrating, but I like to believe that they did the best they could,” Logan said. “I love Porter. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”