The Commons at 172 Tremont St. exclusively features gender-neutral bathrooms—the first building to do so—according to college officials.
The college decided to make bathrooms part of an effort to dedicate the $24 million building to student spaces. The renovation will cost approximately $2 million, according to an institutional master plan amendment the college submitted to the Boston Planning and Developing Agency.
Christopher Henderson-West, president of Emerson’s Advancement Group for Love and Expression, said inclusive bathrooms show Emerson’s support for its students.
“Or at least [the college] is starting to take care of their LGBTQIA+ students and looking out for their well-being,” Henderson-West said. “Even if it’s something as simple as going to the bathroom.”
The building, purchased last November, will not open in January 2019. Both the lengthy zoning approval processes and a search for contractors forced college officials to push the date back to sometime in spring 2019, according to Campus Center Director Joshua Hamlin.
A final approval hearing in front of the Boston Zoning Commission took place on Sept. 12. If the commission approves The Commons project, construction will begin by week’s end, Hamlin said.
Vice President of EAGLE Rachel Gaudet is excited to see the college’s promise to meet student needs come to fruition. Last semester, with other EAGLE they posted about 75 gender-inclusive bathroom signs all around campus, with slogans such as “Can you see us now?” urging the college to recognize a need for more gender-neutral restrooms in high–traffic areas.
“It’s very positive to see,” they said.
The building’s floor plans include a community kitchen available to all on and off-campus students, which features a sink, microwave, oven, stove-top, and central island. Hamlin said the layout also promotes student interaction by introducing various seating arrangements.
“Our hope is that this will be open to students during the day as a lounge space [and] community space,” Hamlin said.
The Commons will also see a new Cultural Center and Center for Spiritual Life. The fourth floor houses both centers with views of Boston Common and the CSL includes a private prayer room and an ablution room where Muslim students can take part in the traditional ritual of washing or cleansing themselves before prayer.
SGA President Jess Guida said the building sounds promising based on planned rooms, meeting spaces, and offices.
“I think it’s hard to gauge what it’s going to look [like] right now, but I’m still excited for it,” Guida said. “I’m very hopeful.”