After a major renovation incorporating and expanding three existing buildings, GW opened District House in August 2016. District House is a 900-bed residence hall that offers communal spaces and retail dining on its lower two levels. The lower two levels of student space and retail dining are open to the public and managed by the Center for Student Engagement. The first year managing the District House communal space, which includes bookable conference rooms, modular furniture, a dance studio, a bike storage room, and a student food pantry, was by all accounts a success. The number of bookings, the amount of time the spaces were in use, the number of individuals and organizations impacted, and the caliber of experience offered to clients all show positive outcomes upon review.
Our new spaces were heavily used from the beginning, and as the spaces became an essential part of the space inventory on campus, usage increased rapidly.
There were 4,900 reservations for spaces in District House in the 2016-2017 academic year, with the cumulative time booked totaling 12,843 hours. The informal use of rooms outside of reservations became commonplace as well; however tracking the frequency and length of unscheduled use is difficult to do accurately. According to reserving organizations, 100,700 individuals attended activities in reserved spaces in District House. Two hundred eighteen different student organizations booked space in District House.
Reservation data also allows us to understand which days and rooms prove to be the most popular with clients. Sunday is the most popular day of the week with 643 bookings occurring on Sundays within the spring semester alone. This is followed by Monday (544 bookings in the spring) and Wednesday (521 bookings in the spring). The B132 multipurpose room or dance studio is far and away the most popular space, with 545 bookings in the spring alone. This is followed by B114 (316 bookings in the spring) and B118 (295 bookings in the spring).
In May 2017, we distributed a survey to District House clients, defined as any individual who made a reservation for a District House space. The 45 responses showed District House clients were satisfied with their experience during the past year. Specifically, clients rated their reservation-making experience an average of 3.43 out of 4, the furniture in the space a 3.66 out 4, and their interactions with our staff a 3.33 out of 4.
However, there are clear areas where improvements to our processes, facilities, and services are needed– notably in-room technology functionality and support, communications related to reservation fulfillment, and facility issues (room smell, light timers, etc.). The lowest rated functionality of District House from the client survey was in-room technology, scoring an average of 3.03 out of 4 – while users were generally satisfied, the unreliability of tech and the inability to get immediate assistance proved frustrating for many.
Overall, clients confirmed that District House significantly expanded available meeting/event space on campus, as well as available “hang out” or “living room” space on campus. Additionally, 67% of students who responded to our client survey indicated that District House contributed to the sense of community on campus.
While we were excited to see the building grow into a lively part of GW’s campus environment during the first year, we also recognize that there are areas where we still need to develop and mature. Based on information from the client survey, student staff feedback, and usage data, CSE Reservations has put forward a number of recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the space and space management. Highlights include:
- Implement a practice-based training for student employees that provides clear overview of policies and procedures in addition to technical and event support capabilities
- Increase the number of student staff members on the CSE Reservations team to better meet the needs of the individuals and organizations using the space
- Expand online presence to include information and photos about available spaces and booking policies (including tabling on the B1 level)
- Provide clarity about bookings for individuals (non-student organization/non-department events), specifically, posting a guide on the website
- Open recurring booking earlier – at least one month prior to semester begins
- Increase the amount of available tables and types of tables within rooms
- Allow groups to check out a digital projector as a back-up to in-room technology
District House has become a meaningful addition to GW’s campus filling a need for additional student centered space. The CSE plans to continue to build upon our first year in District House by expanding the quality, accessibility, and atmosphere of the space. In an effort to ensure progress, the CSE Reservations team has developed a 10-year strategic facilities plan that considers the current needs of the spaces and how to ultimately make the spaces as supportive to student learning and community building as possible.