Thomas Residence Hall renovations aim to bring dorms up to new standards

Renovations, which will extend to Lightner Hall, include new furniture and carpet


Samuel Damon

Thomas and Lightner Halls are due to be renovated this summer.

Trinity University will begin renovations on Bruce Thomas Hall and Camille Lightner Hall this summer, putting rising sophomores on track to live in revamped rooms. The process will begin the day after students move out this spring, and it will continue until August 1. The renovations will involve changes to the dorm rooms and bathrooms, as well as some general mechanical upkeep. All of these changes are a part of a greater initiative to bring all Trinity buildings up to a new standard.

The Thomas Hall renovations will include switching out furniture and many changes to the bathrooms. No walls will be knocked down, so all differences will be slight improvements or repairs.

Within the dorm rooms, the furniture will be altered to ensure residents can better personalize their rooms. Jim Baker, the senior director of facilities services, described the replacements.
“Thomas already had the new beds, but it doesn’t have the new desks or bookcases. … It’s hard to make it your personal space,” Baker said. “We’re going to remove the built-in desks [and] remove the shelves that are over the desks with those lights. … In the closet, we’re removing both the built-in pieces of furniture and the closet rod. We’re just going to go the straight closet rod with the dresser.”

The facilities department plans to implement more intense upgrades in the Thomas bathrooms. These changes will reflect the university’s improved standards, as Baker affirmed.
“The bathroom’s a big change,” Baker said. “[Now,] you kind of walk in from the bathroom into the half-dressing area and the small half-bathtub that you shower in with a shower curtain. … We’re going to make that entire room the shower with a glass door where the doorframe currently is, so doubling the size of the shower. We’re [also] replacing the vanity fronts underneath the sinks.”

In keeping up with new building standards, facilities will also replace the carpet in Thomas. Facilities also will be addressing general upkeep issues and altering the current air conditioning system. Baker assured students of the new air conditioning’s dehumidification capabilities.

“We’re putting new air handlers – fan and coil units – that will do dehumidification in the rooms,” Baker said. “[The current humidity in the rooms is] driven a lot by the outside humidity. This fixes that. … A room with 50% humidity at 76 degrees feels better than a 70-degree room with a humidity of 60/65%.”

The hall’s shared spaces, though, will be left alone. Baker promised that the purpose of this delay will be well worth it by its completion before the fall 2024 semester.

“[Students will] notice that the lobbies and the third-floor study lounge were not part of this remodel. It’s because we have a new campus architect, and we’re trying to give him a chance to get a feel,” Baker said. “Those spaces need to have more attention, more focus, more creativity applied to them, so we’re not going to do them this summer. We’ll come back and do them next summer. … [Until then,] they’ll just be open spaces, but they’re going to look the same.”

These renovations were a long time coming. Bret Biance, director of residential life, mentioned the effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on the modernization of Thomas Hall and Lightner Hall.

“Thomas and Lightner were slated for renovations during COVID. However, the need to provide modified student housing and the heavy financial impacts of COVID delayed the start date,” Biance said.

Thomas and Lightner’s renovations are part of a greater operation at Trinity, though. Biance illustrated the schedule that facilities and residential life follow.

“All of our renovations are on a schedule with a major renovation occurring every 25 years or so, minor updates every decade or so, and regular maintenance throughout,” Biance said.

According to Biance, the upkeep of Thomas Hall and Lightner Hall is unlikely to surpass its deadline of August 1. The construction should cease then, as Biance reassures students.

“There is always a risk that a project might run long,” Biance said. “However, the director of facilities, Jim Baker, has never missed a deadline in his 20+ years at Trinity and I trust his timelines.”

Regardless of the timeline, past Thomas Hall residents hope that the renovations will change future residents’ experiences. Jack Vela, junior English and communication double-major, lived in Thomas Hall his sophomore year and felt that he received the short end of the stick.

“In all honesty, I was very jealous of the sophomores who didn’t have to live in Thomas, especially those who got to live in Prassel,” Vela wrote in an email. “Having seen the other sophomore dorms like Prassel and Lightner, I felt that Thomas was firmly the worst of the bunch.”

Other students felt that Thomas Hall had potential, though. Tucker Craft, junior global Latinx studies and Spanish double-major, found his time in Thomas Hall his sophomore year to be more positive, and he hopes that the renovations will solidify the building’s uniqueness.

“I really like the Thomas building. It has really good bones,” Craft said. “[With] the rats, the mold, the broken-down everything, I still liked the building. It had personality. … I think the biggest problem with that dorm is that it was so old. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to repair it. It has a lot of potential to be a nice living spot.”

The hope for the future of Thomas Hall from past residents is high, as the renovations have the potential to improve the experience of all future residents. Vela mentioned his hope for the Thomas Hall renovations.

“I think that these renovations will definitely impact the Thomas living experience for the better, especially regarding the changes to the showers and floors,” Vela wrote. “If these renovations go well (and if the building is completely rat-free), I think Thomas has the potential to become much better than what it was.”