Dartmouth campus planners received input from students and neighbors on Thursday about a proposal to construct undergraduate housing on Lyme Road north of the central Hanover campus.
A small student focus group and more than 230 members of the Hanover community attended the consecutive Zoom meetings. Participants in both sessions responded to an online survey and expressed a range of opinions and ideas about the proposal, which would build apartment-style undergraduate residences on the east side of Lyme Road, near the Lyme Road Village and Garipay Fields.
“We know that there are many questions about how Dartmouth is planning to develop in this precinct, and this evening is really to share our initial thinking, to open a dialogue with all of you to understand what are the opportunities in this area and what are the challenges, and to learn from all of you so that we can make the best possible plan,” Josh Keniston, vice president of campus services and institutional projects, told the community attendees.
Keniston stressed that Dartmouth intends to maintain access to similar recreational uses on the property as it seeks to address the urgent need for new and renewed undergraduate housing.
“This is an incredibly valuable recreational area for Hanover, for Dartmouth, and for the region,” Keniston said. “All of our plans intend to honor that recreational history—it’s been baked into the design parameters.”
In the short term, the Lyme Road project would create residential “swing space” for about 300 students, allowing Dartmouth to begin systematic renovations of approximately 60% of existing undergraduate residence halls over the coming decade, starting in summer 2022 with Andres and Zimmerman Halls and the Brace Commons social space.
The proposed project derives from Planning for Possibilities (PDF), Dartmouth’s strategic master planning framework, which was published in summer 2021 with the help of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and input from many members of Dartmouth regional community. (The framework refers to the property in question as Lyme Road South, differentiating it from a parcel farther north that includes the Dartmouth Organic Farm and Oak Hill.)
Presenting at the community meeting with Keniston were Joanna Whitcomb, director of campus planning; Rayna Erlich and Kitty Tsui, architects with Beyer Blinder Belle, the firm assisting with the Lyme Road planning effort; and several other members of the design team.
Whitcomb described how the strategic framework process looked at the entirety of Dartmouth’s footprint, from the Second College Grant property in northern New Hampshire and Mt. Moosilauke to the central campus. She drew attendees’ attention specifically to the area surrounding downtown Hanover—what she called “the 6-mile corridor” stretching from the Organic Farm to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
In the process of identifying places to develop within this narrow, 6,000-acre corridor, Whitcomb said the planners’ emphasis has been on reinforcing “existing centers of activity.”
“We really don’t want to sprawl along those 6 miles,” she said.
At the student session, participants seemed open to the idea of apartment-style residences on Lyme Road and raised questions about plans to extend transportation services between the development and downtown, access to the central campus, and the possibility of new housing closer to campus.
Whitcomb and Erlich said that while long-term plans do call for expanded undergraduate housing on campus, such projects could not come online quickly enough to relieve current housing pressures.
Community members reinforced the importance of the Lyme Road site as an outdoor recreational hub, especially for cross-country skiing.
At the end of the community meeting, Keniston thanked participants for their input and promised to post an FAQ next week in response to questions submitted during the Zoom session.
Thursday’s meetings were the first of a series of opportunities for students, staff, faculty, and members of the community to learn about the Lyme Road South project. The next meeting is planned for February.