The opening of Allison Hall, a six-story, 45,000 square foot dormitory that Susan Doban Architect, PC, designed for Monroe College on Main Street in New Rochelle, NY, marks the completion of the second phase of a master plan the architectural firm developed for the college’s Westchester campus, according to Susan Doban, principal of Susan Doban Architect, PC.
Allison Hall, which opened in September 2004 and was officially dedicated in December 2004, sits adjacent to Milavec Hall, the administration and classroom building that opened in mid-2003. Susan Doban Architect, PC, designed Milavec Hall as part of the first phase of the master plan for the 1.5 acre site that Monroe College acquired on the commercial strip in downtown New Rochelle, and is now planning the third phase, a second dormitory on the other side of Milavec Hall.
Allison Hall accommodates 200 students in 50 suites that feature two bedrooms, a common study area, and a private bathroom, and, in several units, views of Long Island Sound. Other building highlights include Allison Bistro, a café open morning to evening; a Fitness Center available to all residents; the Tech Lounge, a state-of-the-art computer facility where students can study and do research, and a Laundry Room. Of the nearly 2,000 students attending classes at Monroe College’s New Rochelle campus, 500 live in residence halls, including Allison Hall.
“A lot of the design ideas for Allison Hall came from an understanding of the site and where it was on Main Street and a desire to project a strong image of the college in the community,” Ms. Doban said. “It also was important that the dormitory design complement Milavec Hall and be integrated into a complex that will allow for a second dormitory in the future.”
Ms. Doban said the dormitory was designed at a slight angle in order to better see the architectural focal point of the building—a six-story glass tower that extends over the sidewalk at the entrance to the building and is capped with an upwardly projecting roof. The glass tower is brightly lit at night and during the day its dark blue glass is visible, which serves as a contrast to the building’s opaque masonry. The tower’s interior features a furnished lounge on each of the upper floors that is used for student activities or to entertain family and friends.
Ensuring that the building was open, accessible, and inviting to the community was a central goal of the project and presented the greatest architectural challenge for the firm because the property site consisted of a 10-foot high dirt hill that was secured by a wall. As a solution, the firm’s design called for digging 10 feet into the hill to bring the front of the property to street level.
“It was important for the first floor to be open, like a storefront,” Ms. Doban said. “We wanted the design to communicate with the pedestrians and drivers along Main Street and enliven the street. It was important to the city that we do this and it also was desirable for the college so that people can see what is happening in the building. By bringing the site to street level, the building becomes an asset to the community, not part of a walled off complex.”
Allison Hall also illustrates one of the firm’s trademarks— the use of light and contrasting colors in the interior of its buildings to provide structures with unique, cost-effective characteristics.
The dormitory is bathed in natural light that pours through picture windows into the Tech Lounge and Allison Bistro on the ground floor facing Main Street; the Fitness Center facing the parking lot in the back of the building; and the dorm rooms, each end of the corridors, and the lounges in the tower on the upper floors.
The color schemes on the upper floors alternate between green and blue tiles on odd and even floors and the different floor patterns and combinations give the building energy. Color highlights the entry to each dormitory unit and bright works of modern art serve as accents on the walls throughout the building.
“Allison Hall demonstrates that Monroe College is committed to its students and remains committed to the New Rochelle community,” said Marc Jerome, vice president of Monroe College. “We have a magnificent building that has transformed this part of downtown New Rochelle. It’s hard for us to remember how much this site has changed.”
Mr. Jerome continued, “It is fitting that the dormitory is named after the late Lucille Allison Jerome, one of the co-founders of Monroe College who died in 2003 at the age of 90, because she exemplified the strength and elegance that is so evident in this building design.”
The project had a tight construction schedule, 10 months, and had to be completed before the students arrived for the fall semester last September. The deadline was met due to a close collaboration between members of a team made up of Ms. Doban, Mr. Jerome, David Dimond, vice president of Administration for Monroe College, Bob Blum, construction manager for Holt Construction, of Pearl River, NY, and Gilsanz Murray Steficek, structural engineer, of New York City.
In addition to the work for Monroe College, Susan Doban Architect, PC, will extend its vision for downtown New Rochelle to buildings on the upper end of Main Street by developing standards for the commercial strip’s Business Improvement District.
The Brooklyn-based architectural firm also is currently designing 15 projects in all five boroughs of New York City for the New York City School Construction Authority that range from $200,000 to $3 million in construction costs, including libraries, gyms, and exterior modernization. Other current projects include the design of 45 residential units above the Fairway Supermarket on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and an expanded streetscape design for Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
Past educational building design projects include the $20 million exterior modernization of five New York City public schools; the $3 million landscaped campus, quadrangle, and athletic fields for the new Kew Gardens, Queens, campus of Touro College; exterior modernizations for both the Freeport and Central Islip Union Free School Districts; and design documents for the new PS 7 in Brooklyn. In addition, the firm created a contemporary loft office space for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce in a 19th Century building that originally housed Frederick Loeser & Co., a prominent Brooklyn department store that thrived in the borough for 100 years. In recognition of the design, the Chamber presented the firm with one of its Building Brooklyn Awards in 2004.