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OHIO unveils a fully renovated Jefferson Hall (PHOTOS)


“This makes us OU proud.”

That was Ohio University alumna Kelly Czack’s reaction after seeing renovations to an OHIO residence hall that, over the course of nearly 60 years, has housed almost 18,000 students while also serving as the pillar of the Athens Campus’ historic East Green.

Czack, a 1986 graduate who serves as an academic advisor for the Patton College of Education, was one of hundreds of members of the OHIO and local communities who attended the Aug. 18 Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration. The event capped off an approximately $39 million full rehabilitation of this iconic residence hall – the first major renovation of the building since it opened in 1958 – and provided the community its first look inside the residential areas of the building since they closed for construction in May 2016. 

“The vision for this renovation was to maintain the successful traditional-style layout that has worked so well for Ohio University with our first-year students,” Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, said in welcoming everyone to the celebration, “but also focusing on modernizing the design.”

Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, kicks off the Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration on Aug. 18.

Pete Trentacoste, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, kicks off the Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration on Aug. 18 with Vice President for Student Affairs and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Jason Pina and Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis waiting in the wings to deliver their welcoming remarks. Photo by Joanna Stoltzfus

Trentacoste noted that the project sought to maintain the look and feel of Jefferson Hall while also establishing what will serve as a “living room” for the entire campus.

“We really hope that this serves all students of Ohio University,” he said. 

In his opening remarks, Jason Pina, OHIO’s vice president for student affairs and interim chief diversity officer, shared his personal connection to Ohio University’s residential community.

“I actually live on campus,” Dr. Pina said, noting that he and his family spent last academic year on OHIO’s West Green and will be living on South Green in the coming year. “But I will say, when you walk through East Green at night, it is one of the best spots on campus.” 

Dr. Pina spoke of the magic of Ohio University, noting that its residence halls are “a shell – the people within them are what really makes this place beautiful.”

Among those people, he noted some who were instrumental in the process of renovating Jefferson Hall.

“One of the pieces of this residence hall that I love the most is the fact that it was almost entirely designed by our students,” Dr. Pina said, sharing that student input was sought throughout the planning process.

He also shined a spotlight on Christine Sheets, assistance vice president for student affairs, who has worked at Ohio University for more than 30 years and has been integral to many residential renovations that have occurred on the Athens Campus in recent years.

“I thank her for everything she has done for Ohio University,” Dr. Pina said. “Because of her and her tenacity for this University, this building will be here for decades.”

Presiding over his first Ohio University renovation unveiling, OHIO’s 21st President, Dr. M. Duane Nellis, accompanied by First Lady Ruthie Nellis, rallied the crowd, declaring, “We are the state of Ohio’s first and finest!”

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis welcomes members of the OHIO and local communities to the Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration.

Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis welcomes members of the OHIO and local communities to the Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration. The crowd attending the Aug. 18 event included all of Housing and Residence Life’s more than 300 resident assistants. Photo by Tasha Dean

President Nellis shared that earlier in the week he had the opportunity to tour OHIO’s East, West and South Greens, dine in Nelson Court and interact with the University’s residence life staff, including its more than 300 resident assistants, all of whom were in attendance at the Jefferson Hall event.

“It’s not just what happens in the classroom, but also what happens as part of their residence life experience. The leadership you all provide in helping to frame a positive experience at Ohio University is invaluable,” President Nellis said. “The building you see before us is designed to foster those experiences in a safe and secure environment. … I’ve had a chance to tour many buildings on our campus. We take great pride in our buildings, but it’s the people, it’s all of you, that make a difference every day in the success of this University, and for that I thank you.”

Those in attendance were then invited inside to see the residential areas of the building with tours led by the students who will serve as RAs in Jefferson Hall this coming year. Among those individuals was sophomore Sarah Bailey, an aviation flight major who will be serving her first year as an RA on Jefferson Hall’s fourth floor.

“I’m so excited,” Bailey said, noting that this was her first experience in Jefferson Hall. “I never in a million years expected that I would wind up here. I think the residents are going to love it. I can’t imagine anyone walking around this building and not loving it. It has so many features and so many conveniences. … The rooms are beautiful and have so much storage.”

Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones greets President M. Duane Nellis and First Lady Ruthie Nellis in the newly renovated Jefferson Hall first-floor lobby.

Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones greets President M. Duane Nellis and First Lady Ruthie Nellis in the newly renovated Jefferson Hall first-floor lobby. Photo by Joanna Stoltzfus

A Jefferson Hall for the 21st century

Designed to meet the academic, residential and support service needs of the Bobcats of today and tomorrow, renovations to Jefferson Hall included a complete overhaul of both the dining and residential areas of the building. Ohio University Culinary Services debuted a new Jefferson Marketplace, a first-of-its-kind neighborhood marketplace that replaced the traditional Jefferson Dining Hall, this past January following an approximately $8.8 million renovation. (See related article.) Work on the approximately 80,000 square feet of space in the residential areas of the building continued through the summer.

The newly renovated Jefferson Hall will officially welcome its first occupants – members of OHIO’s Class of 2021 – on Thursday, Aug. 24, for a move-in experience that for the first time in the building’s history will include the use of an elevator, which was added during the renovation.

First-year students moving into Jefferson Hall later this week will be the first to use this brand new furniture.

First-year students moving into Jefferson Hall later this week will be the first to use this brand new furniture. Photo by Joanna Stoltzfus

The building’s second, third and fourth floors will serve as 285 students’ home away from home. The student rooms feature brand new finishes and furnishings, including built-in cabinetry, dimmable LED lighting, and individual climate control capabilities. Upgrades to the building’s living areas include new furniture in the common areas; small laundry rooms as well as quiet study spaces and common areas on each floor; and improved restroom facilities with enhanced privacy – features that, Dr. Pina shared, were incorporated based on student input. The fourth floor of the building also features a reservable community kitchen for personal meals or group events.

The community kitchen located on Jefferson Hall’s fourth floor was designed with safety in mind. The kitchen’s stove is programmed to automatically turn off when no one is in the room.

The community kitchen located on Jefferson Hall’s fourth floor was designed with safety in mind. The kitchen’s stove is programmed to automatically turn off when no one is in the room. Photo by Joanna Stoltzfus

The building’s first floor will serve as an extension of every OHIO student’s living environment, providing Bobcats living both on and off campus a place to eat at the Jefferson Marketplace (which opens for fall semester at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24) as well as spaces to gather, socialize and study. The first floor houses a game room, complete with a pool table, a ping pong table and a nine-screen video wall that can be used for gaming or movie night; a reservable multipurpose room; numerous study spaces; a reading room; and one of three new mail centers on campus.

The game room on the first floor of Jefferson Hall is sure to attract students from throughout campus with its ping pong and pool tables and a nine-screen video wall.

The game room on the first floor of Jefferson Hall is sure to attract students from throughout campus with its ping pong and pool tables and a nine-screen video wall. The room also features an OHIO-themed wall, featuring the saying, “The Best Years are Spent Here.” Photo by Joanna Stoltzfus

Other improvements to the residential areas of the building include a refreshed lower-level parking structure, complete with elevator access and new lighting; new faculty and staff apartments; and new finishes, windows, mechanical components, state-of-the art communication systems, and electrical infrastructure. 

Highlighting OHIO’s commitment to sustainability, Jefferson Hall was renovated based on a LEED Silver design. Energy efficiency of the building is estimated to be optimized by 26 percent, and approximately 94 percent of the waste generated during the renovation, or roughly 1,800 tons of recycled materials, was diverted from local landfills. Energy efficiency measures incorporated into the building include the addition of more natural lighting, LED lighting and water-efficient fixtures that are estimated to improve water efficiency by more than 33 percent.

Students attending the Aug. 18 Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration enjoy breakfast around the double-sided electric fireplace located in the building’s first floor lobby.

Students attending the Aug. 18 Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration enjoy breakfast around the double-sided electric fireplace located in the building’s first floor lobby. Photo by Tasha Dean

Corna Kokosing and Elford (CKE) serve as the construction manager on the Jefferson Hall renovation while AECOM, in association with Hanbury Evans, served as the designing architect.

Coming home to Jefferson

The Aug. 18 celebration served as a homecoming for many in attendance, including several Ohio University employees.

Senior Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones has many fond memories of Jefferson Hall, having lived in the residence from 2002-2008 while serving as assistant director for residence life on East Green. 

“My boys grew up here,” Dr. Hall-Jones said, recalling the years she, her husband and their two sons spent eating breakfast in the old Jefferson Dining Hall. “My kids learned how to ride their bikes on the sidewalk behind Jefferson Hall. The students would help them.”

And while the apartment that her family once resided in is now the East Green Mail Center, Dr. Hall-Jones praised the renovation.

“It’s beautiful. It’s so amazing,” she said. “The individuals who planned these renovations were incredibly thoughtful and clever and saw potential throughout this building.”

Kim Trout, a 1994 graduate who serves as OHIO’s associate bursar, lived in Jefferson Hall 283 during the 1990-91 academic year. 

Trout toured Jefferson Hall with fellow OHIO graduates Kelly Czack and Jill Sabatine, both 1986 graduates. While Czack and Sabatine both lived in Tiffin Hall their first year at OHIO, they both spent a lot of time in Jefferson Hall where Czack’s best friend lived. 

The three women spent the tour reminiscing while Czack snapped photos to send to her best friend. Among their memories? Trekking to the Gamertsfelder Hall basement to do laundry – with no laundry bags back then. Group showers – and no curtains. And metal desks and bed frames that swayed when you got into bed.

Trout recalled the lovely view she had of Jeff Hill from her residence hall room.

“We saw all kinds of things,” she said, noting the time she and her roommates watched a group of students sled down Jeff Hill in a clawfoot bathtub that was missing its feet.

(From left) Kelly Czack (Class of 1986), Kim Trout (Class of 1994) and Jill Sabatine (Class of 1986) pose for a photo with Claire Santoro, a junior majoring in early childhood education who will be a resident assistant on the third floor of Jefferson Hall

(From left) Kelly Czack (Class of 1986), Kim Trout (Class of 1994) and Jill Sabatine (Class of 1986) pose for a photo in the second-floor lobby with Claire Santoro, a junior majoring in early childhood education who will be a resident assistant on the third floor of Jefferson Hall this academic year. Santoro was one of a number of Jefferson Hall RAs providing tours to those attending the Jefferson Hall Reopening Celebration. Photo by Angela Woodward

“I do think that East Green is the heart of this campus,” said Sabatine, a resident of Rhode Island who was in Athens to visit Czack. “This rivals any campus in the country.”

“Unbelievable,” Czack said when asked what she thought of the renovations. “This is way overdue, and it is outstanding. It maintains the integrity of the building, and it’s just gorgeous and so functional.”

“It shows that you can update these buildings without losing the integrity,” Sabatine added.

“What I’m loving is that it’s keeping the traditional residence hall feel,” Trout said. “This is the epitome. If somebody asks what does Ohio University look and feel like, Jefferson Hall on East Green is it.” 

The future of housing at OHIO

The completion of the Jefferson Hall renovation marks another milestone as OHIO builds for the future and implements its Housing Development Plan, which was unveiled in early 2013. In addition to the Jefferson Hall renovation, Phase I of the Housing Development Plan included the construction of four new residence halls and a Living Learning Center and the razing of six of the 15 residence halls that make up OHIO’s Back South. 

OHIO’s Division of Student Affairs is currently working with a consulting firm that specializes in housing and university campus planning to determine the scope of the Housing Development Plan’s Phase II and align it with the University’s Comprehensive Master Plan, the Six-Year Capital Improvement Plan and the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan. Recommendations on Phase II are expected to go before OHIO’s Board of Trustees in the coming year.

Improvements to residence halls extend beyond Jefferson

Students returning to the Athens Campus for fall semester are likely to notice many improvements to their living environment as Ohio University’s Department of Housing and Residence Life completed several project over the summer aimed at enhancing students’ living-learning experience.

In addition to completing the full rehabilitation of Jefferson Hall, Housing and Residence Life invested nearly $13 million in other residence halls around campus. 

Work included:

Gamertsfelder Hall

The largest residence hall on OHIO’s East Green saw several upgrades over the summer, including a complete renovation of its lobby and study room and the addition of a shared kitchen.

James Hall

West Green’s James Hall now has several new amenities as a study room, kitchen and laundry facility were added to the building.

Restroom renovations

The restrooms in both Tiffin and Boyd Halls were completely gutted and renovated over the summer, offering a modern look and enhanced privacy.

Perkins Hall

East Green’s Perkins Hall underwent fire and electrical upgrades.

Access control

For the past several years, Ohio University has been adding access control measures to residence halls on the Athens Campus. This summer, Housing and Residence Life completed the final phase of its access control project, adding keyless entry and making other minor improvements to Scott Quad, Bromley Hall and several Back South buildings. Keyless entry allows students to access their residence hall by swiping their OHIO ID rather than using a key. As of opening, all OHIO residence hall front doors will operate via card instead of physical keys.  

Back South demolition

This summer saw the razing of three additional residence halls on OHIO’s Back South – Fenzel, Martzolff and O’Bleness Houses.