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Harvard Adams House Residents Frustrated by Delays as Renovations Approach Second Year

The Randolph Hall renovation project, which aims to revamp part of Adams House, began in June 2021 and is expected to be completed this spring.
The Randolph Hall renovation project, which aims to revamp part of Adams House, began in June 2021 and is expected to be completed this spring. By Joey Huang
By Jackson C. Sennott, Crimson Staff Writer

After nearly two years of construction, renovations to Adams House’s Randolph Hall, an undergraduate residence at Harvard, are now set to complete this spring — a change in timeline that has exacerbated some residents’ frustration about the project’s shifting schedule.

The renovations of Randolph Hall are now “on schedule to be complete in April 2023,” according to Executive Director of House Renewal Stephen Needham. The new date represents a shift to the construction timeline; as of Feb. 21, the Harvard Construction Mitigation website stated that Randolph Hall would be completed “by the end of 2022.”

“I was under the impression that Randolph was supposed to be done, and it’s very clearly not yet,” said John D. Bourland ’24, an Adams resident. “I’ve just kind of grown to accept that it’s under construction and will be for a while.”

The project is the second of three phases in a broader set of renovations to Adams, one of 12 upperclassmen houses at Harvard, initially set to conclude in 2022. Delays to construction — due in part to a five-month construction moratorium during the Covid-19 pandemic — led to a year’s delay in the renovations to Randolph Hall and a two-year delay to the project overall, which is now slated to conclude in 2025.

Needham added that once renovation work began following the moratorium, “construction proceeded according to plan.”

During the renovations to Adams, some sections of the house — such as Randolph Hall — have been rendered uninhabitable due to the ongoing construction, forcing some of the house’s residents into overflow housing.

Bourland — who was assigned to overflow housing in Fairfax Hall last year — said he felt the prolonged construction has alienated some Adams residents.

“A lot of people in temporary housing are disjointed from where they’d normally be,” Bourland said. “The construction is in the middle of a lot of our buildings, so it’s kind of isolating.”

Several students said the renovations to Adams were desperately needed. Randolph Hall had not seen a renovation project this large since its construction in 1897.

Ann C. Nguyen ’25-’26, another Adams resident, said the old buildings of Adams House have significant accessibility concerns.

“I’m glad to see that they’re going to do something about accessibility on campus,” said Nguyen, a former Crimson Arts editor. “I have to walk up four flights of stairs to get to my room, and I can only imagine how inaccessible it is to most of the houses here.”

Needham said the renewal of Randolph Hall will prioritize accessibility, adding that the renovated hall will include two elevators and be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Needham added that the hall will have updated plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems and will include upgraded insulation, doors, and windows.

Aaron B. Shuchman ’25, a Crimson Sports chair and Adams resident, said the construction itself – marked by scaffolding, fencing, and construction vehicles that still line Bow and Plympton streets – has not been “too intrusive.”

“I barely notice the construction,” Shuchman said. “The noise hasn’t been particularly bad.”

Instead, some residents’ frustrations have stemmed from the lack of noise – a sign of slow progress.

“Honestly, I feel like they never work, so I don’t hear any noise,” said Adams resident Harrison D.K. Wallace ’25, noting delays to the house’s renovations.

Needham noted that the Adams faculty deans and the project’s architects had solicited student feedback and provided updates at a series of town halls throughout the construction process. The House Construction Mitigation website also provides weekly updates on the renewal.

“They’ve done a good job, I think,” Shuchman said. “They’re making an effort to be transparent.”

The project is set to enter its final phase this summer when renovations begin at Westmorly Hall, which contains Adams’ only dining hall.

Adams residents, many of whom have limited time left at the College, expressed mixed feelings about the project’s conclusion.

“We’re happy that it’s happening as part of Adams,” said Bourland, who will graduate before the renovations are completed. “It’s just unfortunate that we’re here right before we get to experience it.”

—Staff writer Jackson C. Sennott can be reached at jackson.sennott@thecrimson.com.

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