- Ruby Wallau/Daily
By Aaron Guggenheim, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 16, 2013
Inside the dusty window of the old Blimpy Burger location on South Division Avenue hangs a sign thanking customers for their patronage during the restaurant's 60-year run.
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Now fenced off, the building and four other neighboring properties recently purchased by the University will be prepared to be demolished to make way for a $185-million graduate residence hall funded in part by a $110-million gift from University alum Charles Munger.
A leaflet distributed to residents living on Thompson and Division streets near the site informed students of approaching construction days.
“Please be advised that demolition and construction activities are going to be commencing this week in the block north of Madison,” the pamphlet stated. “Fencing will be installed and demolition of the existing structures along Division and Madison will take place shortly thereafter. We will have further information in early October regarding construction details for the new Munger Graduate Housing building.”
Munger, along with Stephen Ross and Helen Zell, have been part of a spate of major donors in the past few years who have donated large sums to endow specific scholarships and programs, as well as fund the construction of campus buildings.
Housing resources will provide $75 million for the project. If construction stays on schedule, the building will be completed in summer 2015. Schematic designs will be unveiled before the University’s Board of Regents at their meeting on Thursday.
The new residence hall will house 630 graduate students — and potentially visiting faculty — in an eight-story, 370,000-square-foot building. The building will be split into groups of seven individual bedrooms and bathrooms joined to a shared kitchen and living space meant to encourage collaboration between graduate students.
Parking will not be provided to future residents.
Graduate students have expressed dismay about the purported cost — about $1,000 per month — and the proposed layout of the rooms.
In an interview after Wednesday’s forum, Hank Baier, associate vice president for faculties and operations, and E. Royster Harper, vice president of student affairs, said while the residence hall was not intended to meet the needs of all graduate students, they stressed that they would work on meeting some concerns, such as cost.
“We recognize that this is not for everyone, but (we) think it will be a wild success,” Baier said.
However, Harper added that there were limitations to what could be changed because the project featured the heavy personal involvement of Munger, who had previously funded the construction of a graduate residence hall at Stanford University.
“Certainly he has been engaged, certainly he has influenced our thinking … I would say he has been a good partner,” Harper said.
With construction beginning, the University can begin looking forward to the completion of a long cycle of renovations and building projects on its residence halls that has sought to make them competitive with the offerings of other top universities.