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Reed College Breaks Ground on New Residence Halls

In Reed’s most ambitious student-housing project in a decade, the college is breaking ground on four new residence halls, at a projected cost of $23 million.

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Images courtesy of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP


Portland, OR (May 22, 2007) – Reed has broken ground on a new quad consisting of four house-like residence halls on the northwest side of campus. When they open in fall 2008, the new dorms will allow the college to approach its longstanding goal of housing 75 percent of students on campus. A total of 125 students will be housed in the new residence halls, which are being built by Hoffman Construction Company and will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

At present, the college guarantees housing only to freshmen, and the goal of providing students with the option of living on campus at least three of their four years at Reed marks a stark contrast to the college’s early decades, when most students were so-called “day dodgers,” commuting from homes in and around Portland. As recently as the 1990s, only half of Reed students were living on campus. Currently, 65 percent of Reed students live on campus; at many peer liberal arts colleges, the figure is 90 percent. Every year, approximately 100 Reed students are denied on-campus housing because there aren’t enough rooms to go around.

“We urged the architects to create buildings that would foster Reed’s intense academic lifestyle,” said Reed English professor Laura Leibman, who served on the residence hall advisory committee. The plans, developed by Portland-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, call for “smaller buildings with social spaces that encourage interaction,” said Leibman.

Bob Frasca, a ZGF partner and senior designer of the project, notes that the guiding philosophy for the Reed College residence halls—to build student housing that is small and intimate—bucks a national campus trend for “big, bloated buildings.” The new dorms, which will house approximately 30 students each and be grouped around a sustainably landscaped quad, were modeled after one of Reed’s most beloved student houses, Anna Mann, erected in 1920 and designed by Reed’s founding architect, A.E. Doyle (who also designed the Multnomah County Library, the Meier & Frank department store, Timberline Lodge, and other notable buildings in the region). 

The four new residence halls are being built at the northwest end of campus. The construction represents a significant expansion of campus life toward the corner of S.E. 28th Ave. and Steele St., where the college already owns several residential and commercial buildings that house students and administrative offices. Once completed, the complex will enhance the north campus residential community, joining residence halls Bragdon, Sullivan, and Naito, as well as the Reed College Apartments and the Birchwood Apartments. All told, 50 percent of students living on campus will be housed in the north-campus dorms.

The new quad will open to the south and Reed canyon, connecting to the south side of campus across Crystal Springs Creek by a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will help reduce pedestrian impact on the environmentally sensitive riparian area, where endangered salmon have recently been spotted. The complex will feature native trees and shrubs, and a system of swales designed to filter storm water runoff; there will also be a café, bike parking, and program space for academic and recreational activities. Each of the three-story buildings will include single and divided-double rooms, as well as study rooms, common kitchens, and dining facilities—all designed to encourage intellectual and social interaction among students.

Future plans to increase the variety and capacity of student housing at Reed include a new Spanish language house near Woodstock Boulevard at the southeast end of campus, slated to open in 2009. Overall, the new residence halls are being developed in order to meet expected housing demand in coming years, and also to foster a tighter, more dynamic campus community. “We want it to be enticing for students to come back each year,” said President Colin Diver. “We believe that having more students living on campus will not only support the academic program, but also enhance the culture of Reed.”