Baits I to close after winter 2012

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Baits I is scheduled to close at the end of the current academic year. Buy this photo

By Haley Goldberg, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 8, 2011

For the 571 students currently living in Baits I Residence Hall, their year in the North Campus housing complex may mark the end of the Baits I legacy.

This past week, University Housing informed residents and staff in Baits I of the University's intention to close the complex at the end of this academic year, according to University Housing spokesman Peter Logan.

The decision was made after the University determined that replacing boilers in the building and installing a fire suppression system for the complex to meet University standards would cost an estimated $6 million, according to Logan. He said the boilers cannot be used safely for another school year.

“We realized that over the years, Baits I has not met the expectation of students … and to really upgrade those facilities would really require a lot more than $6 million,” Logan said. “… It’s really difficult right now at this point to justify spending a significant amount of student dollars on infrastructure and renovation for Baits I.”

University Housing Director Linda Newman said another main reason for closing the building is that Baits I — which opened in the mid-1960s — does not embody the principles of University Housing’s Residential Life Initiatives. The project includes creating dynamic residential neighborhoods and complexes within five minutes of a residential dining hall.

“As we continue to work through evaluating where all the buildings work within (the Residential Life Initiatives) … and making decisions and priorities about where to spend limited renovation dollars, we came to the conclusion … that Baits I is not a building that we want to continue to invest money into,” Newman said.

The decision comes after months of analysis by University Housing and discussions with the leadership of the University’s Division of Student Affairs, Logan said. Once Baits I closes this spring, further building assessments will be conducted before the University makes a final decision on what to do with the vacant building, according to Logan.

“If after assessing the situation we determine that having Baits I is extremely necessary, then I’m sure we’ll see what it would cost to make that happen,” Logan said. “… We need to do more assessment of what it would require to not only bring it up to a level of infrastructure reliability, but then going beyond and making it a useful community.”

While the specific logistics of closing Baits I are yet to be determined, Logan said he wanted to inform students of the intention to close the complex before they begin thinking about the housing sign-up process in January.

“We’ve got to have our ducks in a row prior to that sign-up process, but at least we need to now make the students aware that Baits I is not a residential opportunity this coming year,” Logan said.

The closing of Baits I means two residence halls will be closed next year, as East Quadrangle Residence Hall will be shuttered due to yearlong renovations. Currently, 1,433 students, faculty and staff reside in these two residence hall combined. The reopening of Alice Lloyd Residence Hall next year, which is currently closed for renovations, will add living spaces for only 530 students.

To compensate for this loss of housing capacity, Newman said University Housing will increase the presence of undergraduates in Northwood Apartments I and II — where mostly graduate students currently reside — and will expand the Northwood Houses first-year experience further into Northwood III.

“When we created the Northwood Houses, we increased the number of occupants per apartment,” Newman said. “So we’ll do the same as we expand more first-year housing into the other buildings of Northwood III.”

Newman added that approximately the same number of undergraduates will be able to live on North Campus even with the closing of Baits I. And the University will maintain its guarantee of offering on-campus housing to all first-year students who apply by the deadline.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, it is a priority of the University of Michigan to be able to provide housing for all first-year students, and we are planning to have housing for the admissions target of approximately 6,000,” Newman said.

Returning students, however, are not guaranteed on-campus housing, and Logan said University Housing is working closely with the Residence Halls Association and ResStaff to figure out the best way to prioritize the room selection process for students returning to the residence halls.

For student and professional faculty and staff working in Baits I, Newman said they will be relocated to new residence halls next year, and no jobs will be lost due to the complex's closure. The housing experience of current Baits I residents will not be impacted in any way due to the decision to close next year, she added.

A community gathering in the residence hall’s Eaton Upper Lounge was held last night for the residents of Baits I to discuss the decision to close the building next year. Patricia Griffin, director of Residence Education, spoke to an audience of 16 students, including residents and resident advisers, about the closing of the complex.

At the discussion, Griffin addressed students’ concerns and confusion regarding the Baits I closing. She encouraged direct communication between the students and University Housing staff about the issue. Though many questions proved unanswerable at this time — like what will happen to the building after it’s vacated — Griffin said getting students to talk about the issue was the main point of the gathering.

“I think at this point, what we really want to do is get students thinking,” Griffin said. “I really want to hear their concerns … and there will come a time before too long where we’ll have a plan, but I think what we didn’t want to do is craft one without any student voice.”

Griffin told the audience she anticipates less residential housing space to be available to returning students next year and explained that RHA will work with University Housing to develop a sign-up process that addresses the issue.

Engineering sophomore Ryan Landay, who lives in Baits I and attended last night’s gathering, said Griffin’s prediction of decreasing housing space has already affected his decision where to live next year.

“I’m trying to figure out where I’m going to live next year, and I was trying to get an apartment, and I don’t know if I want to go through the trouble of finding an apartment, but apparently it’s going to be harder to find a dorm next year,” Landay said.

However, Landay said he agrees with the University’s decision to close Baits I and also thinks $6 million is too large a figure to renovate the building.

Griffin also discussed a potential celebration of Baits I to precede the closing of the residence hall. The residents at the gathering agreed to organize a communal forum in the coming weeks to generate ideas on how to commemorate the legacy of Baits I.