West Quad renovations feature new study and cultural spaces

Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 10:20pm


After closing last year for renovations, an updated West Quad will reopen this fall as home to 1,100 University students.

As the most recent dorm renovated through the University’s Residential Life Initiative, which aims to modernize residential facilities and programs on campus, renovations included updates to the building’s mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems as well as a reworking of how the space was laid out.

Because of the building's age and condition, West Quad underwent a complete renovation with work done to both community and student rooms, whereas many previously updated dorms were only partially renovated.

One major change after the $112 million renovation is the removal of the West Quad dining hall and kitchen to make space for study and community rooms. Student spaces now include study and social rooms, a multicultural lounge and a game room, as well as a media suite with sewing machines and a green screen.

West Quad residents will now eat primarily across the street at the Central Campus Dining Hall in South Quad, which reopened last fall after renovations. South Quad residents will now pick up mail and packages in West Quad.

“All of the space that was dining, kitchen or seating, is still available for students,” said Loren Rullman, associate vice president for Student Life. “It’s now just more for studying and group work and meetings and interaction.”

Another modification is the dorm's Cultural Connector, rebuilt and expanded after the International Center moved from West Quad to the Student Activities Building as part of the renovations.

The area serves as a cultural and study space. It contains a kitchen for student use, University Housing offices, a serenity room and meeting and group spaces. The connector also includes murals of Michigan and of the world, in recognition of the International Center.

“The Cultural Connector is a very unique feature,” Rullman said. “We had to conceptualize what this could be and we wanted to really accomplish several things...We don’t have anything like that in the rest of housing.”

Greg Merritt, University Housing senior associate director, said the idea of the space was to engage students to think about different cultures and heritages.

“It’s one of the things that we’ve thought a lot about, in terms of this being a connector, is can you find students who would stumble upon this space, be intrigued by something culturally, and then expand their horizons?” he said.

The building's layout also experienced change, with several walkways and entrances added throughout the building to make it more traversable. Changes to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act were also added, including ramps and two new elevators.

With the completion of renovations, West Quad will now also be home to the Michigan Community Scholars Program, which was housed in East Quad for the past few years.

There was little change in overall occupancy due to the renovations, but as part of the updates student rooms were all refinished, painted and now have air conditioning.

Several rooms were additionally reconfigured into one or two floor suites, generally housing over six people, to better utilize space within the building. Each floor now also has two or more open lounges.

Even with the updates, however, the building looks purposefully similar to its previous appearance.

Capital Projects Director Robert Yurk said the renovation strived to maintain the historical character of West Quad, which was built in 1939 and is one of the oldest dorms on campus.

While repairs were done to the building's roof and brickwork, the renovations also focused on restoring the brick and tile floors, as well as the wood paneling and trim in the dorm’s public areas.

Original West Quad furniture and other items are also preserved throughout, such as a plaque by the middle of the building on which the original hall signs for the dorms are mounted.

“We tried to be as sensitive as we could to the historic nature of the original West Quad building,” Yurk said. “So from the outside it looks very much like West Quad looked before it was closed for renovation.”

The West Quad renovation concludes the second phase of the Residential Life Initiative, which began in 2004. The program’s first two phases has seen renovations to the Alice Lloyd, Mosher Jordan, Stockwell, Couzens, South Quad, East Quad and Baits II residence halls, as well as the construction of North Quad and The Blue Apple dining center in Bursley.

Rullman said a third phase has yet to be approved, and the University is in the process of determining what it would like to accomplish next.

Daily News Editor Shoham Geva contributed to this article.