October 20, 2021

Renovated SUNY dorm has grand hotel look

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

New ceiling medallions, columns and flooring are new features in the lobby areas of DeGroat Hall, where a crowd gathered Thursday for the official grand reopening of the recently renovated SUNY Cortland dormitory.

Walking into DeGroat Hall on the SUNY Cortland campus, you may feel like you are in a luxury hotel rather than a college dormitory, where a large white medallion decorates the ceiling and white Georgian pillars are posted around the oval lobby entrance.

DeGroat Hall’s porcelain tile floor is coated in shades of white and gray. And to the left of the entrance is a lounge with a fireplace and furniture you would expect of a five star hotel.

“This reminds me of the Hilton,” SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum said about the reaction from parents moving their sons or daughters into the residence hall.

Individual rooms are more modest, where the feel of a traditional dorm room pervades, although the closets and desks are of a higher quality than previously found in the building.

The building is one of the final dormitory-style residence halls on campus to receive a major renovation, costing $7 million in total. The partially renovated Casey and Smith halls on Neubig Road are the next to be completed in the near future.’

DeGroat Hall, which has 84 rooms and accommodates 161 residents, received new floors, energy efficient lighting, updated dorm rooms, bathrooms and laundry room, an insulated ceiling to better keep the heat in the building, new lounges with kitchenettes and an elevator.

“The elevator is a big help, especially when having to carry a bunch of groceries upstairs,” said Grace Palmer, a sophomore biomedical science and exercise science major who lives on the second floor of the building.

She lived in the building during her freshman year, before it was renovated, and said what was done is a “huge” improvement.

“It’s so nice. It is like a hotel,” Palmer said. “It is a lot less dreary than it was, now with the nice white walls, rather than the manila yellow ones previously.”

Robin Shutts, director of facilities planning, design and construction for the college, said the design process for the building began in January 2011 and plans for the renovation were complete the following year in August.

However, with all dorms full, the college had to wait until April 2015, when it could keep the entire dorm out of commission until construction was complete.

The renovations were complete ahead of schedule, just in time for students to move in in August.

The first and second floor each have a women’s wing and a men’s wing, with freshman, sophomore and transfer students among the residents. The third floor is made up predominantly of single rooms for upper classmen and transfer students.

Seven rooms in the building are single units, complete with a bathroom and shower, to accommodate students with personal needs, according to Bitterbaum.

Each of the lounges is equipped with more designer-like furniture, a flat-screen elevision, oven, sink, cabinets and a microwave.

The traditional large, hallway style bathroom facilities on the first and third floors were replaced with a series of smaller, single-use bathrooms. Each bathroom features a sink, toilet and shower stall, all of which can be locked behind the occupant, allowing for privacy.

“Students can learn better in a place where they feel safe and comfortable,” said Ralph Carrasquillo, director of residence life and housing.

To Cameron Tiernan, a freshman at the college, the dormitory definitely gives him a “homey” feeling. He said the people in the building are really nice and the overall environment of the building makes it less likely he will feel homesick.

The one thing he thinks the hall is missing: a pingpong table. But he said he thinks one is coming soon.

Palmer said while the new lounges are nice, she would have liked to see study rooms added, like many of the other residence halls have. However, it is a minor wish, as she said she loves living in the hall because it is close to her classes and to downtown Cortland.