Renovations are underway, not only for MU residence halls, but for the Residential Life Master Plan as well.
Originally conceived in May 2001, the goal of the Residential Life Master Plan was to upgrade and renovate the older halls on campus, mainly the ones built in the 1960s. Increases in student enrollment and economic fluctuations have markedly changed the makeup of the Master Plan since then.
In 2006, Residential Life changed the Master Plan “to upgrade or replace all residence halls at MU,” according to its website. This included the mid-campus halls Defoe-Graham, Hawthorn, Galena and Dogwood, which were originally not in the plan, as well as commons buildings like Pershing and Bingham.
“Defoe-Graham, HawLeWood and College Avenue were going to be smaller (than they are now),” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs said.
But with the growing student population, Residential Life saw it fit to increase the size of the halls in order to add more beds.
This year, Residential Life Director Frankie Minor said the department is reassessing the plan again to keep with the ever growing and evolving campus.
“Based on the fact that we now have 33,000 students as opposed to 27,000 students when we started it, we need to look at whether we need to build an additional hall or add additional capacity,” he said. “We haven’t really defined what that might be, how feasible it is, or if we can afford it.”
Scroggs said the original plan didn’t fully take MU’s growing student population into account.
“The original plan was developed with the idea that we would have 30,000 students on campus by 2012,” she said.
As of last week, 33,805 students were enrolled at MU.
In the original plan, the main idea was not to add a large number of beds but to primarily “refresh” what the university already had, Minor said. But based on long-term projections, Residential Life now sees the possibility to build additional halls to house students.
After Mark Twain Hall’s renovations, Johnston and Wolpers will undergo construction, then Laws, Lathrop and Jones. According to the Residential Life Master Plan timeline, renovations for the last three wrap up after 2015. Only then would the possibility of constructing a new hall be tangible.
If construction of an entirely new hall was feasible, Minor said a likely site would be near Laws, Lathrop and Jones area, but the study will look at alternative locations as well.
Since this idea of a second revision of the plan is in its infancy, very little is set in stone.
“It all depends on space and cost issues,” Scroggs said. “When we take a look at the plan, we need to look at all the things that affect students that live on campus.”
A major factor in these projects is money. Although cost of construction materials has skyrocketed, the cost of labor has decreased.
“With the economic situation going on, some of the construction costs such as labor have gone down because there are a lot of contractors out there who are not building other things, so they’re offering us really good prices,” Minor said.
Timing is another issue. Since spring semester usually sees a decrease in the number of students living in residence halls, most of the renovations will have to begin mid-year.
“We have found that renovations take around 16 to 18 months to complete,” Minor said.
Typically, when a hall closes at the end of fall semester, the building is closed for the spring semester and the entire following year, then reopens the next fall semester.
Residential Life will make a final decision regarding the construction of an additional hall possibly by the end of the academic year or early next fall, Scroggs said.