North Quad back to drawing board


Published April 9, 2006

Students will have to wait at least another year for the opening of North Quad Residence Hall and Academic Complex, a state-of-the-art residence hall slated to replace the Frieze Building. The construction has been delayed because University administrators were dissatisfied with plans for the building's exterior.

According to University administrators, the opening of the residence hall will be pushed back to the fall of 2010.

The setback will not affect the demolition of the Frieze Building, which will begin this summer as scheduled.

Originally, the University hoped to start housing students in North Quad in the fall of 2009, but problems with the exterior forced administrators to pull schematic designs from the agenda of the University Board of Regents meeting last month, when the regents were slated to approve them.

University President Mary Sue Coleman said administrators were pleased with the interior of the building, but had concerns with the exterior.

There are currently no plans to have new designs ready for the regents meeting this month.

Hanlon said the aesthetics of the building were displeasing and created messiness on State Street.

"(The building) didn't look welcoming. It was fortress-like," he said.

The building is expected to serve as the gateway from the north to the University's central campus.

Diane Brown, associate vice president for facilities and operations, said there is a possibility that the architectural firm - Einhorn, Yaffee, Prescott - that created the design will subcontract another architect to bring a new perspective to the project.

North Quad is the first new residence hall the University has built in 35 years. Both dorm rooms for students and offices for various departments will be housed in the new quad in an attempt to merge academic and residential life. Other features of the complex include high-tech video walls, a modern dining center and study lounges.

But administrators said focusing on the interior of the building caused the exterior to be somewhat neglected.

"We were so consumed with the inside, so excited, that we didn't have enough time to reflect on the outside," Coleman said.

When schematic designs of the new building were released last month, Timothy Slottow, the University's chief financial officer, began receiving complaints that the look was not distinctive enough, Associate Provost Phil Hanlon said.

Plans for North Quad were first announced in the fall of 2004. Since then, students and Ann Arbor residents have voiced concerns with the project. The most prominent of these concerns was the disappointment on the part of some that demolition of the Frieze building would destroy the attached Carnegie Library, a historical city landmark.

But since then the University has announced that most of the library will be saved and the inside will be redesigned.

More recently, the Michigan Student Assembly passed a resolution suggesting that the University seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification on the project. Acquiring LEED certification means a building has met some standards of environmental friendliness.

Hanlon said the project's leaders would keep the MSA resolution in mind but added that LEED certification is costly and that there are many competing interests already in the budget.

- Gabe Nelson contributed to this report