As the former Blimpy Burger building sat unoccupied a block away, the University’s Board of Regents approved the schematic design for the residence hall set to take the burger joint’s place at the body’s meeting Thursday in the Michigan Union.
The Munger Graduate Residences, which will cost about $180 million to build and is expected to be complete in 2015, is funded mostly by a $110-million donation from University alum Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Munger funded a similar project at Stanford University in 2009. The regents announced Munger’s donation April 2013, noting that Munger will work closely with the administration in the construction process.
Part of Munger’s donation is reserved for a fellowship program for graduate students. Before the board approved the design, Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor) said Munger asked to name his $10-million fellowship endowment the Coleman-Munger Fellows. Newman said the name reflects Coleman’s commitment to the University.
“Mary Sue will be remembered as a great part of this gift and bringing it in, and we’re honored that he chose to name the fellows after her,” Newman said.
In a presentation to the board, Lee Becker of Hartman-Cox Architects said the site “couldn’t be better.” The Hartman-Cox Architects and Integrated Design Solutions architecture firm worked together to design the building. Hartman-Cox previously designed the Law School’s Robert B. Aikens Commons Addition and the school’s South Hall in 2011, and Integrated Design Solutions just finished designing East Quad Residence Hall.
The building will include 96 apartments with a total of 632 bedrooms organized in seven-person apartment spaces. Facing West Quad Residence Hall, the main entrance will come from Thompson Street, with an additional student entrance and loading dock at the back of the complex.
The residence will have eight floors, and the top floor will feature lounges, study spaces and a fitness center, accompanied by a running track. Becker said this is his “favorite” floor since it allows residents to interact with each other in a common space.
After the regents approved the design, Regent Andrew C. Richner (R) said he was happy the design represented an innovative living space that aims to engage graduate students from a variety of disciplines who may not otherwise interact.
Since the expected cost of living in the hall is $1,000 per month, Rackham students have asked the regents to work to lower the price.
Rackham student Kaitlin Flynn, vice president of Rackham Student Government, spoke during the public-comments section, stressing her opposition to the building’s cost.
Flynn said graduate students, like many undergraduates, live on a fixed income and do not have financial help from their parents, making $1,000 per month an unreasonable amount to expect for housing.
Along with Flynn, Public Health student Cameron Glenn, president of the Public Health Student Assembly, and Michael Proppe, the Central Student Government president, said at the meeting that they wished the University took more student input into consideration before proposing the schematic design.
In response to the students’ comments, E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, said she hopes the board can make the housing more affordable. She added that the creation of the residences is necessary as the last graduate student housing option constructed was Northwood V in 1971.
Harper attended a forum hosted by Rackham students last week to answer questions and concerns that students had over the design. At the forum, students were primarily concerned with the community-living style of the building and its cost to future residents.
Harper told the students that the administration has to significantly consider Munger’s vision for the building because he was so heavily involved in the planning process.
“If this were ‘just us’ and the funding were ‘just us,’ we would have some different kinds of options,” Harper said at the forum. “But I think when you are in partnership … you make some agreements about what you’re going to offer, then we have to honor those agreements.”