Breaking common ground

New multipurpose building to provide lasting impact.

By
Adam Loyd
July 13, 2021
exterior of Front Street Common

When the 2020-21 school year came to a close, a demolition crew wasted little time dismantling Fisher Theater to make way for the latest addition to the Exeter campus.

Filling the void left by the fabled performing arts building, Front Street Common will provide Exeter students and faculty with top-notch residential and learning spaces for generations to come.

Included in the project: an all-new 42,000-square-foot multipurpose building with housing for up to 60 students, five faculty apartments and four Harkness classrooms. Designs also call for the creation of an open-air green space linking the new building with existing residence halls Dow House and Front Street Dormitory, transforming the residential area on the west side of campus. The additional residential space will play a critical role in years to come, allowing for housing flexibility as existing dorms undergo renovations.

Interior of front street common

Set to become the 26th dorm on campus, the addition of Front Street Common will mark the first time since 1969, when Main Street Dormitory and Ewald Dormitory opened, that a new residence hall will be built on campus. Long part of the fabric of the Exeter community, several on-campus dorms first opened their doors in the 1800s. The oldest residence hall, Dutch House, dates back to 1760, 21 years before the founding of the Academy.

Construction of Front Street Common is set to begin next month with a target completion date of July 2022. Hear from some of the many people involved in the project below.

Principal Bill Rawson ’71; P ’08
“Residential life is vital to the Exeter experience — transformational in the personal growth it engenders and the lifelong connections that form. The new residential community on Front Street will deliver on the promise of growth and transformation for new generations of Exonians.”

Director of Facilities Management Mark Leighton
“The construction of the new dorm will provide a much-needed increase in student bed inventory. The provision of the four Harkness classrooms in the lower levels also accommodates the needed expansion of the Health and Human Development Department but still maintains their presence in the heart of the academic core of campus by being adjacent to the Health and Wellness Center.”

exterior of Front Street Common

Campus Planner and Architect Heather Taylor
“We conducted a housing study which outlined our long-term student bed needs. This dorm was sized to make the most of those needs and the site afforded the opportunity to construct a 60-bed dorm in this central location. We are excited to energize and recreate the green space that will pull together the existing communities of Dow House and Front Street dorm with the new residence hall. Interior features include: student rooms with built in desks and shelving, a common room filled with natural light, a game room/student kitchen area to accommodate all members of the dorm, and five faculty apartments that all have direct supervision of the length of corridors of student rooms, but ample separation for families.” 

Manager of Sustainability and Natural Resources Warren Biggins
“One of the features that I am most excited about is the use of ground source (geothermal) heat pumps to meet the majority of the dormitory’s heating and cooling needs. This will be the fourth location on campus to utilize geothermal, after Phillips Hall, the Goel Center for Theater and Dance, and the Downer Family Fitness Center. Not only are these extremely energy-efficient and low-maintenance systems, they also can become carbon-free sources of heating and cooling when powered with electricity from renewable sources. With this fourth geothermal system, the Academy continues to take strides towards reducing its carbon footprint in both the short and long term.”

Learn more about the project here and watch real-time progress of the build here.