University staff, construction workers, engineers, and students gathered on Tondorf Road on Sept. 5 to celebrate the groundbreaking for Henle Village’s renovation. After project leaders gave a series of speeches, Georgetown community members used ceremonial shovels to turn over the soil and celebrate the commencement of the new complex’s construction now that its demolition, which began in June, is complete.
The Henle replacement will serve as the first implementation of the Campus Plan’s “student life corridor” concept, a cluster of academic, housing, and pedestrian infrastructure construction projects spanning from Tondorf Road to the Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall to St. Mary’s Hall. Planners hope that the buildings’ unique architecture will beautify the north side of campus, reduce demand for off-campus housing, and provide environments that promote student wellness. The university aims to complete the new apartment-style complex in summer 2025.
The dormitory will provide 780 beds—312 more than Henle Village’s former capacity—and 15,000 square feet of space for studying, recreation, and wellness. The plans exceed the university’s goal of 244 beds spanning 2017 to 2036.
“Adding new beds to campus is huge, for not only having the students back on campus, but to meet the goals of our Campus Plan,” Senior Project Manager for Georgetown University Capital Projects Nico Hohman told the Voice. “So to have that many extra beds on campus that we didn’t before have, it’s great.”
According to Hohman, the first floor of the new Henle’s west building will include a community space featuring a prayer and meditation room, a fitness center, and Counseling and Psychiatric Services offices. Renderings of the community space also depict study areas, skylights, and living green walls.
“The ground floor of the west building is going to have a community space for all the students, and the design of that is unlike anything that we have on campus,” Hohman said. “I think from a design perspective to core perspectives, it’s going to be a drawing feature to this side of campus.”
The dormitory will implement innovative design choices that promote campus sustainability. Additions will include improved heat management techniques, rainwater collection systems, and solar panels.
“We have a lot of the technology we hear about in some of the other cities, a lot in Europe—triple-pane argon, gas-filled windows reducing the solar heat,” Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer David Green said in his speech. Green added that the university plans to obtain LEED Platinum certification for the dormitory. Platinum is the highest level of LEED certification, requiring buildings to optimize energy and water efficiency, minimize local environmental impact, and utilize sustainable construction materials.
After Green’s speech, GUSA President Camber Vincent (SFS ’24) spoke on behalf of the student body. “The incorporation of student ideas and continuous feedback have been a benefit to this project from the get-go,” Vincent said. “I have seen plan after plan after plan for what the new Henle might look like and each and every single time it gets better.”
“My only disappointment with the plan thus far is that the new Henle won’t be ready during my time here at Georgetown, and I won’t get to use the yoga room myself,” he added.
Ron Lewis, chair of Georgetown’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission, highlighted the project’s consensus-driven planning process. In 2012, Lewis represented the Georgetown neighborhood in negotiations with the city government and the university to lay the groundwork for Georgetown’s current Campus Plan.
“The process for developing the Henle replacement could not have been more collegial and more cooperative,” Lewis said. “The neighbors were involved at an early stage and at every stage. We had all the input anybody could’ve wanted, and we’re delighted at the results.”
Rev. Ebony Grisom, director of Protestant Life, led a prayer to consecrate the grounds. “May we be on time and under budget,” Grissom said. “May we continue to be patient with one another through the noise and traffic. May we keep the finished product in view when inconveniences test our patience.”
At the end of the groundbreaking ceremony, university staff acknowledged the potential disturbances the construction may cause. “We understand that it’s disruptive and that there is a certain amount of patience we need to ask for during important times in your life at Georgetown,” Vice President for Student Affairs Eleanor Daugherty told the Voice. “Let’s remember to, with frustration, add patience—and realize that it comes from a caring place.”