University President Mark Schlissel and E. Royster Harper, vice president of student life, helped cut the blue ribbon at the official reopening ceremony for the West Quadrangle Residence Hall Wednesday afternoon.
Shuttered for renovations over the last year, the West Quadrangle Residence Hall held an official reopening ceremony Wednesday afternoon — with University President Mark Schlissel and E. Royster Harper, vice president of student life, helping cut the blue ribbon.
When Schlissel addressed the crowd, he marveled at the hall's renovated features.
“Man, I’m jealous,” he said.
West Quad’s opening marks the latest in a series of projects launched a decade ago to improve housing on campus. West Quad is now the eighth residence hall to receive renovations through the multi-million dollar Residential Life Initiative launched by former University President Mary Sue Coleman in 2004. The initiative also initiated the construction of North Quad as well as dining centers on Central Campus and in the Hill campus neighborhood.
At Wednesday’s opening ceremony, University officials praised the designers, architects, housing staff, contractors and engineers for their work on the renovation, which focused on upgrading the building technologically and improving spaces dedicated to diversity and inclusion, while keeping the historic feel of the hall.
West Quad was originally constructed in 1937 and was funded by the Works Progress Administration of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program. Harper said it was important to University administration to maintain the building’s original look.
“When we started these renovations almost a decade ago some of our buildings were, well, there's historic and then there's antiquated,” Harper said. “Some of our buildings were definitely on the antiquated side.”
While the nearly 75-year-old original tile floors were kept, air conditioning was added, as well as a new creative suite and improved study spaces. The multicultural room was relocated and updated.
LSA senior Amanda Champagne, a West Quad residential adviser, lived in the dorm her freshman year as well and said the improvements reflect the needs of the students.
“As students, academics are our first priority, and they made sure to make that their priority as well by creating all of these awesome spaces for students to study,” Champagne said. “You can really tell that the renovations were made with the needs of residents in mind.”
The updated building is over 30 percent more energy efficient than code standards require.
Schlissel said improving buildings on campus will encourage more people to apply to the University.
“Now I look at what we can provide in terms of accommodations for our students and I can't wait to have a campus tour start walking through here," Schlissel said. "Applications will go out through the roof even more than they've been.”
Harper said students are most interested in the creative suite, which features a sewing machine for students to use.
“With all of the new technology in this place I hear that students are flocking to the sewing machine,” Harper said. “People who say that millennial's don't care about old fashions skills need to go check out the sewing machine.”
The designers also focused on improving multicultural, inclusive spaces for students. The Cultural Connector — a space lined with multicultural art that opens to East Madison Street and serves as the gateway to South Quad across the street — provides a space for students of all walks of life and backgrounds to connect with one another.
The previous Asubuhi Multicultural Lounge was not ideal for students to associate with one another when Diversity Peer Educator Jake Davidson, an LSA senior, was a freshman in West Quad. He said he is excited to make use of the new space.
“Prior to the renovation, the space was tucked into this corner of the concourse and had a rather intrusive column in the middle — needless to say that wasn't too conducive for discussions,” Davidson said. “Since the renovation lounge has been moved to the center of the concourse in this new design that's open space but it reflects its history of providing a safe space for students.”