Leonard Hall’s renovation and its impact on students

As student’s head home for the summer, American University plans to renovate Leonard Hall for 2023-24 academic year

Oni Chaytor, Staff Writer

Leonard Hall, one of American University’s traditional residence hall buildings, will undergo renovations in the Summer of 2023.

Groundwork for the residence hall was completed over spring break, but the official renovation efforts will not take place until May 15, following the university’s weekend commencement activities, said Elizabeth Deal, the assistant vice president for Community and Internal Communication at AU. The renovation is part of the university’s goal to develop the university in the next 10 years, according to the 2021 Campus Plan.

“Leonard Hall will be extensively renovated as part of the ongoing evolution of our residence halls,” Deal said in an email. “The extensive summer work will upgrade rooms, kitchens and lounges, install POD-style restrooms, which are designed to provide students with individual private spaces, and feature mechanical equipment improvements.”

According to American University’s Housing and Residence Life, Leonard Hall houses approximately 275 students. The residence hall, which once had communal-style bathrooms on each floor, will be implementing “POD-style bathrooms” into the residence hall, Deal said. Large restrooms on each floor of the residence hall will be divided into seven individual-use pod-style bathrooms that will include a shower and a toilet and lockable doors with floor-to-ceiling divisions for an increased measure of privacy, according to a AU Campus Life video. Other notable aspects of the upcoming renovation include the creation of four community spaces with additional seating and countertops, the incorporation of more natural light into the residence hall lobby and the addition of conference and meeting rooms in the lobby, according to the video.

The university announced the Leonard Hall renovations in an email to students on Mar. 3 during the housing reapplication process period. The price for students in Leonard Hall will be $10,910 next academic year for a double room, an increase from its price of $10,400 for the 2022-2023 academic year. Reapplication started on Feb. 15 and gave students the opportunity to reapply for housing for the upcoming academic year. First-year Adelaide Howell said her experience in Leonard’s current state was neither good nor bad, and she understands that college dorms will always have their flaws.

“We’ve had a lot of destroyed property, but I personally don’t mind,” Howell said. “I mean, I know it’s not as good as Centennial, but like, it’s a college dorm. They’re all kind of not ideal.”

Howell, who has been living in Leonard since August 2022, said Leonard’s remoteness from the other freshman residence halls—where she says a lot of freshman drama takes place—was what attracted her to Leonard. But despite the hall’s upcoming renovations, Howell said she decided to reapply for housing in Cassell Hall with some of her friends.

“They’re saying they’re going to completely renovate and revamp it, but really all they’re doing is changing the bathrooms and just making it like communal bathrooms,” Howell said. “We just wanted to have a bathroom that was attached to our room because sharing a bathroom with the people on my floor isn’t amazing.”

Some AU students decided to apply for housing in Leonard for the upcoming academic year, and are excited to witness the changes to the residence hall. Grace Byron, a first-year, said despite the negative experiences her friends had living in Leonard, she’s looking forward to building community with others in Leonard next year.

“I have so many friends who currently live in Leonard and they haven’t necessarily had the best experience,” Byron said. “But I think that this wouldn’t even have been a possibility had the renovations not taken place. I think it was a good housing choice for me in terms of community, and with the renovations taking place. It is a good place to live.” 

Jhonny Lopez-Lopez, who is also a first-year at AU, lives in Leonard and said he decided to give the residence hall another chance after hearing of the university’s plans to renovate Leonard Hall. 

“My roommate and I selected Leonard again due to us hearing about the renovations,” Lopez-Lopez said. “I like the idea of them combining the kitchen and communal area of the lounge like how they have it in Letts and Anderson.”

Residence halls are essential to the student experience at AU, and students believe the upkeep of their home away from home is important. Howell said she spends a lot of time in her dorm and thinks the space students live in is important.

“I study in my room, and so like having a good space to study and like having a place that you feel comfortable in is really important,” Howell said. “And so I think that like renovating dorms, helps enhance the student experience and make them like, actually enjoy it all the more.”