University Housing officials detailed plans yesterday to
significantly improve on-campus housing, including plans for at
least one new residence hall, renovations to two existing dorms and
an overhaul to dining services.

The proposals, part of the Residential Life Initiatives, have
been in development for months. They result from years of
University research signaling the relatively poor condition of
on-campus housing. For more than 30 years, the University has not
built a new residence hall, even as the incoming classes have
increased.

The University expects to begin building the new residence hall
— whose location remains undetermined — in 2006, and it
will not be finished until 2008.

The University plans to renovate Mosher-Jordan Hall or Stockwell
Hall in 2006, and the other in 2007, so that both are completed by
2008. During that time some students will have to relocate to North
Campus.

The University also plans to begin constructing two new dining
cafeterias in 2006. At the same time, the University will make fire
and other safety improvements on existing dorms.

Administrators estimate all the new plans will cost $250 to $280
million, but said that these numbers are just preliminary. No
additional housing rate increases are expected beyond the typical 5
percent annual increases.

“Our efforts tie very closely to the president’s
initiative to reconnect, renovate and expand residential life on
campus,” University Housing Director Carole Henry said at
yesterday’s University Board of Regents meeting. University
President Mary Sue Coleman has, administrators say, staked her
presidency on improving residential life, believing it essential to
recruit the best students and create small living communities.

Despite the comprehensive nature of the housing plan, several
regents at yesterday’s meeting were skeptical of its impact.
At least two presentations proposing radical changes to housing
have been made in the past decade, but progress was stalled when
key administrators like former President Lee Bollinger left for
other schools. Regents approved a resolution in 2001 giving
direction to University Housing to build a new residence hall.

When elected in 1994, University Regent Andrea Fischer Newman
(R-Ann Arbor) made housing her personal priority. Before her term
expires in 2008, she said she would like to see results.

“We are putting significant pressure on the president to
move this,” she said. “You need to understand, and
people here need to understand, the frustration factor on the board
level.

“Something needs to be done on this campus in terms of
housing because we’re not keeping up,” she added.
“We are behind, and we’ve been behind.”

Several regents, including Olivia Maynard (D-Goodrich), echoed
this sentiment and urged University Housing to move forward
promptly on its recommendations. Maynard suggested that next month
Henry bring to the board some specific price information.

The new hall will feature apartment or suite-style housing,
private bathrooms and living rooms, which have become increasingly
popular over the years. “Those days are over,” Henry
said, referring to past halls that relied on communal bathrooms and
narrow hallways.

The new hall will most likely include 500 to 650 beds, and
University Housing will make a considerable effort to create small
living communities in clusters of 20 to 25 students in the hall.
But the total capacity of the University’s residence halls
may not increase by much because some beds will be lost in halls
where Housing creates communal spaces.

Henry said two of the most distinctive and memorable halls on
campus, Mosher-Jordan and Stockwell, are first in line for
renovations. Next would be Betsy Barbour House, Helen Newberry
House and West Quad Residence Hall.

During that process, University Housing will have to shut down
each hall — one at a time — for an entire school year.
For those renovations, students will most likely have to relocate
to North Campus — probably Northwood residencies, where
administrators believe there is ample space to accommodate this
relocation. Overall, renovations could take up to 20 years.

For new dining services, University Housing envisions a
marketplace setting with restaurant-quality dining. One possible
option could be grilling stations or pasta bars. New dining centers
will be located on Central Campus and the Hill area, while Bursley
Hall and East Quad’s centers will get renovations.

West Quad, Bursley and halls on the Hill could also receive
emporiums, which are a blend of a restaurant and convenience store
with café-seating, computers and even plasma televisions. At
least one dining center is expected to open in 2008.

At the same time, University Housing will continue to make
technology and safety improvements, including an upgrade of fire
alarms in all halls by 2007 and the installation of fire
suppression systems, such as sprinklers, by 2011. Such improvements
will cost $7 to $10 million each year until improvements are
completed.

The new residence hall is not necessarily intended to alleviate
the housing crunch, which was caused by the marked increase of
about 500 extra freshmen. This year’s unexpectedly large
freshmen class was a “blip” and should not happen
again, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said.

Instead, the new hall will cater to upperclassmen — but
will not be restricted to them, Henry said. University Housing has
found that demand by upperclassmen for on-campus housing is high
when their desires are met: single rooms, apartments and private
bathrooms.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.