Housing plan calls for new and renovated halls, dining facilities
A comprehensive plan for U-M student housing calls for building the first new residence hall in more than 35 years and extensive renovations to other facilities, including upgrades to dining areas and technology infrastructure and continued progress on installation of life safety systems.
Carole Henry, director of University Housing and assistant vice president for student affairs, presented the preliminary results of an extensive planning process, titled the Residential Life Initiatives (RLI), to the Board of Regents Sept. 23.
President Mary Sue Coleman, who has made on-campus housing one of her top priorities, called the initiatives “the most sweeping renovation to Michigan’s residence life system in the history of the University” in remarks to the University community earlier this week.
“Residential life is a vital part of the student experience,” Coleman said. “The quality of the residential experience can make all the difference in the academic success of our students.”
Coleman said the facilities plan presented to regents is closely linked with her task force that is charged with recommending ways to expand the connections between residential and academic life. The task force was first announced in April and includes faculty, senior Housing staff and student representation. Its work will shape the residence hall renewal plan in a way that allows collaborative living and learning environments in a digital age, she said.
At the board meeting, Henry highlighted the two-year RLI study in which committee members from Student Affairs and Facilities and Operations examined existing facilities, reviewed institutional data, surveyed and interviewed students, and conducted benchmarking studies at peer universities.
“Our extensive look at campus housing included a visioning session with faculty, staff and student representatives, along with individual interviews, student focus groups, a residential survey and a dining survey,” she said. “In addition, we examined the rental housing and retail food outlets in the community, and looked at what 11 other institutions are doing to meet student needs.”
Henry said the research clearly shows that the needs and expectations of students and their families have changed significantly over the years since Michigan’s last residence hall was built.
“Although our buildings have served us well and will continue to serve us in the future, they are aging and in need of many improvements if they are to meet contemporary standards relating to information technology, electrical capacity, modern classrooms, study space, dining facilities and privacy,” she said.
In addition, Henry noted that growing student enrollments, particularly at the freshman level, have strained the capacity of existing housing facilities.
The last new residence hall at the U-M was built in 1967. For 20 years after that, enrollment for the first-year class hovered at around 4,500 students. That number grew to about 5,100 in the 1990s and closer to 5,500 in the past five years.
Total undergraduate enrollment grew by more than 1,700 students to 24,517 in fall 2003. University Housing currently has the capacity to house about 9,600 students.
“The University has an historic and unwavering commitment to house all first-year students in on-campus housing,” Henry said. “However, as the freshman class has grown, this has limited opportunities for returning students to live in University Housing. Yet nationwide, the trend is for more upper-class students to choose a campus housing environment.”
As a result of its research and planning, the RLI committee has recommended the following:
• Construction of a new residence hall in the range of 500-650 beds, with suite or apartment-style configuration. The site for a new hall has yet to be determined.
• Renovation of two architecturally significant buildings, Mosher-Jordan and Stockwell, in the near future, with renovations planned for Barbour, Newberry and West Quad as funding allows. Renovations would include upgrades to electrical service, heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems, and elevators; replacing plumbing; renovating bathrooms; installing sprinklers; renewal of IT infrastructure for Internet access; compliance with the American with Disabilities Act regulations; and programmatic changes to create small communities.
• Construction of new dining facilities and renovation of existing facilities to meet student needs for quality, variety and extended hours. Surveys show that students want places to gather at unscheduled times. They also desire a wider selection of healthy entrees as well as regional and ethnic foods. Proposed dining facilities would include marketplace-style dining centers, dining emporiums that include a restaurant and convenience store, and restaurant-quality dining with a variety of food service stations.
• Continuation of life safety initiatives and information technology upgrades in all residence halls. All halls now have keyless entry into the buildings, student rooms and bathrooms, and 12 have upgraded fire alarms. The remaining five fire alarm system upgrades should be completed by 2007, with sprinkler systems fully in place by 2011.
The total cost of these projects over a 10-year time span is estimated to be between $250 million and $280 million. Funding will come from Housing internal reallocations and cost savings, routine fee increases, and increased revenue generated from any expanded capacity resulting from a new hall. University Housing is a financially self-supporting auxiliary unit.
E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, said detailed planning for RLI projects will begin this fall and proceed over the next several years. Housing and Student Affairs staff will make formal presentations to a number of groups including the Michigan Student Assembly and Residence Halls Association. A Web site also has been established (http://www.housing.umich.edu/rli/about.html), and community members can share ideas and feedback about the plan by sending e-mail to email@example.com.
Housing and Facilities staff will complete the programming and site analyses for the dining renovations, Mosher-Jordan and Stockwell renovations, and construction of a new hall. Work by the president’s task force on residence life will inform the facilities design and programming content.