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Sunday, May 26, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame to tear down, replace Pangborn and Fisher next summer with new residence halls

The University will permanently decommission and tear down Fisher and Pangborn Halls this summer and build two new residence halls in their places.

The move will increase the total campus bed count and provide more amenities for students living on campus, according to vice president for student affairs Fr. Gerry Olinger. Hall communities will remain intact throughout the process.

“We’ve got a lot of work in the next couple of years,” Olinger said. Olinger has taken on interim responsibilities in residential life since Heather Rakoczy Russell’s departure last month.

Next fall, the Pangborn community will relocate to the new men’s residence hall on East Quad between Johnson Family and McCourtney Halls. Fisher will relocate to swing dorm Zahm Hall for two years.

The men of Pangborn will become permanent residents in the new men’s residence hall that will open for the 2024-2025 school year. The name of the new dorm has not been announced.

The new halls on South Quad will not be named Fisher and Pangborn because the former donor agreements only extend through the life of the building. They will be built in the neo-gothic style and are set to open in the fall of 2026 after two years of construction.

On Pangborn’s former foundation, the University will build a new women’s residence hall. In Fisher’s place, a men’s residence hall will be constructed. The Fisher community will move back into that hall once it is complete, after two academic years in Zahm Hall.

Although older dorms like Sorin Hall were designed to withstand restoration, the physical structures of Pangborn and Fisher do not lend themselves to the same types of renovation, Olinger said.

In total, the construction projects involving five residence halls will add 445 more beds in two years’ time.

Holy Cross Hall in 1990 was the last Notre Dame dorm to be decommissioned and torn down. Grace and Flanner Halls were decommissioned in the 1990s, but those buildings remain standing as offices and classrooms.

“As a result of this construction and the completion of the new men’s residence hall on East Quad, the University will further strengthen its investment in residential life at Notre Dame, accommodate the residency requirement, and permanently guarantee housing to all transfer students,” Olinger wrote in an email sent to students around 8:30 p.m.

Members of residential life met with the Fisher Hall and Pangborn Hall communities earlier Tuesday evening to discuss the transition.

Fisher Hall
Fisher Hall will be replaced with a new residence hall, set to open for the 2026-2027 school year.

Olinger said the plan — two residence hall demolitions and three new residence hall construction projects — is part of the University’s efforts to expand capacity, relieve overcrowding and create physical building improvements following the six-semester residency required announced in 2017.

“You’re taking two buildings that don’t have a huge capacity and replacing them with buildings with larger capacity, and then adding an entirely new hall,” Olinger said.

Limited space for transfer students, particularly those in the Holy Cross Gateway program, has been a cause for concern among students and parents in recent years. By expanding residence hall capacity through this project, the University will guarantee on-campus housing for all transfer students.

“Transfer students are a really important consideration,” Olinger said. “We believe very much in the importance of residential life. That’s why the University instituted the three-year residency requirement. Being able to give everyone that opportunity is really important to us.”

As the University continues to conduct major dorm renovations, such as the ongoing project in Breen-Philips, beds are often lost to common spaces, kitchens and gyms. The 400-plus beds added through the maneuver will make up for beds lost during renovations of older dorms.

Both new halls on South Quad will have slightly larger footprints than its decommissioned predecessor to allow for more common spaces and amenities. The buildings will also have air conditioning.

Although the buildings will look similar to recent construction, Olinger said the University wanted to match the style of South Quad and South Dining Hall. The new women’s dorm, for example, may have “a little bit of a tower” that functions as a beacon at the end of South Quad, Olinger said.

Hall staff and current students “will decide how to best honor each hall’s legacy, including what traditions to uphold and the placement of hall memorabilia,” according to Olinger’s email.

Olinger said that the Fisher Regatta, the hall’s springtime boat race across St. Mary’s Lake, could be renamed and preserved through the transition.

The three goals of the coordinated project are to increase the total bed count on campus, retain hall communities and provide similar amenities — social lounges, workout facilities and square foot per student — in every residence hall.

Over the past decade, Notre Dame residential life has completed major renovations in dorms including Dillon, Alumni, Morrissey, Badin, Walsh and Sorin. Breen-Phillips will soon join that list. The University has also built four new residence halls in that time — Baumer, Flaherty, Dunne and Johnson Family. 

“It’s a good illustration of how important our residential communities are,” Olinger said.