“Old Dorms” Made New at McCormick Road
Flashbacks of first-year life in the Old Dorms may conjure images of sultry rooms and greasy food runs to The Castle. Change has come to McCormick Road, and the transformation continues. Gay Perez, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Executive Director of Housing and Residence Life at the University of Virginia, shares details about the first renovation of the Old Dorms since their creation in the 1950s.
“Old Dorms” Made New at McCormick Road
A critical aspect of Housing & Residence Life’s work to create open and welcoming on-Grounds communities is identifying and pursuing housing renovation projects. We are constantly in the process of improving comfort and access in our existing student housing, simultaneous with embarking on new construction that will expand our housing inventory. The University’s first-year “live-on” requirement makes these efforts necessary as we support a growing number of enrolled first-year students, and seek to offer second- through fourth-year students convenient and competitive choices for housing as they progress through their studies here. Project examples range from recent refurbishments to our Gooch/Dillard suite-style housing to a brand-new, six-story building on Brandon Avenue that will offer upper-class apartments beginning in 2019.
Perhaps the most anticipated project has been the renovation of “Old Dorms,” our first-year residence halls on McCormick Road. Constructed between 1946 and 1951 to fulfill a need for additional post-war student housing with the passage of the G.I. Bill, these buildings have long been popular for their location close to Central Grounds. Among a handful of non-air conditioned residence hall buildings (surviving a Virginia late summer there can almost be worn as a first-year badge of honor), the sense of history and place is palpable – which perhaps explains why, when the time came to address the McCormick Road Residence Area, both current and former residents indicated a strong desire to renovate the current structures rather than demolish them in favor of new buildings.
Beginning in the summer of 2017, Housing & Residence Life embarked on a project to modernize the McCormick Road residence halls, with the work divided into three phases. The first three buildings in the project — Bonnycastle, Kent, and Dabney – were completed in August 2018, and members of the Class of 2022 were the first to move into these new versions of “Old Dorms.” Page, Emmet, Echols, and Humphreys are currently under renovation during the 2018-2019 academic year, and the third phase in Lefevre, Metcalf, and Hancock will complete the project by August 2020.
In addition to the long-awaited arrival of air conditioning, the renovated residence halls feature lounges, studies, and other community spaces; elevators, televisions, and monitor signage; and new visual identity for the area conveyed in environmental and wayfinding graphics placed throughout the buildings. When complete, McCormick Road will house approximately 60 more students, with a total occupancy of 1,390 students and resident staff.
Bonnycastle, Kent, and Dabney were not the only makeover subjects this past summer at McCormick Road. Modernizing Bonnycastle meant a similar opportunity for the much-beloved greasy spoon, The Castle, which has also been reimagined. Along with a contemporary wraparound patio, sleek new interior, and copious amounts of natural light, The Castle now features a new “plant forward” menu of creative salads, grain bowls, and paninis, including options with chicken. The change in fare has been a hot topic since its announcement, with many reminiscing over shared memories of fried food and late nights. That said, a recent lunchtime visit to The Castle saw full tables – both inside and on the patio – of current UVA students enjoying the food, the redesigned space, and each other’s company.
The 2018-2019 academic year is history in the making for the first-years in the Class of 2022 who are living at McCormick Road. For one year only, these students are bridging the old and the new. Those living in Hancock, Metcalf, and Lefevre are the last who will live in these historic buildings as they were originally created in the 1950s, and residents of Bonnycastle, Dabney, and Kent are the first to experience the renovated houses. All will take away enduring memories of their first year at UVA.
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