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Final Renovation of Engelhart Hall Set for Summer

May 23, 2007

Final work on a multi-year, $5.5 million renovation project at the Frank C. Engelhart Graduate Residence Hall is expected to be completed this summer.

Work at the Northwestern graduate housing complex at 1915 Maple Avenue will include completion of all of the kitchen renovations, installation of sprinklers and improvement to the first floor lounge.

“This is the final stage of a comprehensive project that began in 2003 to convert the residence from dorm-style rooms to comfortable apartment living,” said Jeffrey Aaberg, assistant director of housing.

Aaberg manages the 243-unit Englehart residence - home to singles, couples and families -- and the McManus Living-Learning, the University's other graduate student residence that houses Kellogg School of Management students. Major renovations were also started in 2003 at McManus and completed last year.

“We essentially re-made the Engelhart living units from top to bottom,” Aaberg said. New furniture, beds, tables - and now kitchens - have been installed in the completely furnished apartments. Walls were repainted and new carpeting and lighting was installed in the apartments as well as in the common areas.

The kitchens underwent a complete makeover from a cramped galley space to a more functional area. The kitchens had not been updated since the building was built, Aaberg said, noting that there was little counter space, appliances were crowded into the main wall, there was no room for preparing food or drying dishes, and some metal doors were warped and beginning to rust.

The existing 8.5- by 5.5-foot footprint was redesigned to save space and open more room for counter space, and new refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, cabinets and countertops were installed.

The entry to Engelhart Hall is over a sunken garden-playground for children living in Engelhart. The playground was updated with new features in the summer of 2004. There also is an indoor playroom for children as well as coin-operated laundry and tenant storage space.

The residence has two elevators and laundry and storage facilities in the basement.

The 10-story structure houses about 400 residents and contains 63 two-bedroom units, 90 twin-bedroom units and 90 one-bedroom units - 10 singles and 80 doubles.

Aaberg said the rents are competitive with the Evanston housing market. Monthly rents during this academic year were $1,200 for a two-bed apartment; $1,100 for a one-bed apartment; $900 for a one-bed single; and $670 for a twin studio. The monthly rent includes the costs of heating, air conditioning, electricity, water, high-speed Internet connection, and basic campus phone and cable television service.

Residents also have an option to rent a parking space in the 117-car underground garage for $65 a month. Residents can also pay a fee to park in the adjoining 96-car open parking lot to the north, operated by the Parking Office.

Most of the graduate students who live in the building take classes on the Evanston campus but a few are Chicago campus students, Aaberg said.

Aaberg, assistant director of housing and food service, was given responsibility for overseeing Engelhart and McManus in 2002, shortly after joining the University in 2001. He has also managed major renovations of the dining halls at Elder and 1835 Hinman. Before joining Northwestern, Aaberg worked five years for the management consulting firm McKinsey and Company.

The University purchased property for Engelhart - the east side of Maple Avenue between Emerson and Foster Sts. - in 1967 for $501,240. Built at a cost of $5.5 million, Engelhart opened in 1970 and was named for Frank C. Engelhart, the late Chicago industrialist, long-time Evanston resident and principal donor for the building. Engelhart had been president and chief officer of Kester Solder Co., was a member of the Evanston Township High School Board, an honorary alumnus of Northwestern University and a member of the John Evans Club.

The graduate housing complex was an integral part of the University's First Plan for the Seventies, a $180 million program of teaching, research and facilities expansion and modernization.

Engelhart had previously made three major gifts to the University, including $4.1 million toward construction and endowment of University Library. The north tower is named in his honor.

Before Engelhart opened, the University offered housing for some of its more than 400 married graduate students in the Oak Crest Hotel at 1570 Oak Avenue in Evanston. The University purchased the 105-unit building, a mix of one- to three-room kitchenettes, in 1960 and named it for George B. Dryden, a recently deceased member of the Board of Trustees.

At about the time that Dryden Hall opened, the University sold The Pembridge at 1406 Chicago Avenue, a building with 72 furnished rooms and dining and kitchen facilities. The building was purchased to house female students. The Pembridge had been purchased in 1943 because the University was not able to build its own housing facilities because of wartime restrictions.

As World War II came to an end, the University was faced with the need for housing a large number of veterans who had returned from military service and sought a college education. The University built the 208-unit Northwestern Apartments at 1725 Orrington Avenue and constructed temporary living units in north Evanston to meet that need.

But enrollment in the Graduate School continued to grow and by 1950 it had topped 1,000. In the next 16 years, that enrollment would double - and plans were made to build Engelhart Hall to meet some of the increased demands for graduate housing.

Staff Has More Than 50 Years of Service

The support staff at Engelhart Hall includes employees who have more than 50 years of experience working at the University.

Carolyn Wharton, coordinator of graduate housing, oversees all of the contracts for all graduate housing and makes apartment assignments for housing at Engelhart. (Kellogg handles the assignments for McManus.) She has worked for the University for 26 years in Graduate Housing.

Gabriel Schechter, program assistant who works at the front desk of Engelhart, has been in Graduate Housing for about five years. He answers student questions, assists with mail and packages, works with the CUFS system to process vendor invoices and oversees the online database of off-campus apartments that area landlords can use to promote their space to incoming residents.

Bridget Fogelberg joined the Engelhart staff last summer. She is a contact for students coming in the office, is the lead person on the sorting and distribution of mail and packages and assists with contract-related duties.

Joe Minonne, who works for the housekeeping vendor Millard, has been the lead housekeeper for Engelhart and McManus for the last five years. He has been at the University for 30 years, including 25 years overseeing the housekeeping of Lake Shore Center on the Chicago campus.