By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
The Board of Trustees approved plans for a $6 million residence hall Saturday, and construction could begin by mid-September.
Jack Rich, executive vice president, said the project’s budget is still being finalized, and officials are looking to see if the hall can be ready for students next August. If it cannot be ready, the project could be delayed.
Kevin Watson, chief administrative services officer, said construction could begin by the middle of September, and Rich said it would have to begin by the end of September to be done by next year.
The hall, which will be built on the student parking lot across from Brown Library, will house 176 students. Although it will be one connected structure, the hall will be comprised of four self-contained pods-students would have to go outside to get from one pod to another.
Each floor of the three-story hall will have a separate common living area for residents, Watson said.
Because of the structure, the new hall could adapt every year, and each pod could house a different gender or classification of students, depending on the needs.
Although the new hall will be built on a student parking lot, Watson and Rich said they believe there will be enough parking.
“We know we’ll hear some concern about [parking],” Rich said. “However, we think there’s plenty of parking on campus. It’s not always at the front door where people want it, though.”
Rich said the student lot and the adjacent lot are never full, even at the busiest times of day. With the Big Purple marching band now practicing by the Williams Performing Arts Center, the lot where they used to practice behind Edwards Hall is now available for parking.
If parking becomes a serious problem once construction begins, Rich said the university owns some houses and property around campus that could be converted into parking.
Plans for a new residence hall have been underway for several years. The Optimist first reported on it in 2002 when it was being called a 2-3 year plan. Last year, because of financial pressures on the university, the timeline was pushed back until the financial situation was alleviated. However, after the university’s largest freshman class enrolled this fall and enrollment was projected into next year, the need for more housing became apparent, Rich said.
“We feel like we need the beds to give us housing for freshmen and sophomores next year,” Rich said. “If we have a similar size class next year, we’ll be short about 100 beds.”
Although the new hall-the first new residence hall built since Smith and Adams halls were built in 1976-could open in the university’s centennial year, Rich said that is only a coincidence.
“It would be here for the Centennial, but it wasn’t planned because of that,” Rich said. “It was planned because we have a need.”