New residence hall planned for WCU
Designs for a new 600-bed residence hall at Western Carolina University met approval from the WCU Board of Trustees June 2, putting the project on track to house students starting in the fall 2019 semester.
“The main goal of the project is to maximize our bed count,” Matt Ketchum, WCU’s director of facilities planning, design and construction, told trustees during a June 1 committee meeting.
WCU’s student population has been steadily increasing over recent years, and the implementation of the N.C. Promise tuition reduction program in 2018 will likely increase demand for both admission and housing. Already, the university finds itself turning away many non-freshman students who request on-campus housing.
The future site of the residence hall is currently a parking area between Judaculla Hall and Brown Hall, a dining facility that is currently under renovation slated for completion in August.
Plans call for a five-story building consisting of two separate wings, with a pedestrian walkway allowing students to pass beneath the connector linking the wings. Rooms will have a semi-private bathroom layout, with roommates sharing a bathroom with each other rather than with an entire hall.
Before voting to pass the plan on to the entire board for approval, the Finance and Audit Committee had some discussion as to whether the building should be designed to go even higher so as to accommodate more students.
“I guess I’m concerned with footprint and where it is and how dynamic an area that is for the future of the campus, so that if we ever decided to do something else there isn’t more footprint space,” said Trustee Chairman Ed Broadwell.
“There is room to further develop the site,” Ketchum replied. “I think what we’re doing with this project is taking advantage of the easy site development cost to maximize our bed count, and later if we want to add more to this project there are opportunities.”
The site was chosen from a list of six options, primarily because it was the flattest land available on campus. That meant that the project funds could go into constructing the best building possible rather than installing expensive retaining walls.
“What separates us is the dimensional nature of our campus,” added Keith Corzine, assistance vice chancellor for campus services. “You see the ridgeline and the building behind the next building, and what I was afraid of was that particular placement with a high-rise shuts off the beauty of our campus.”
The newly approved plan represents a change from plans approved in 2014, which called for additions and renovations to the existing Buchanan Residence Hall rather than construction of a new building. The advantage of the updated plan is that WCU can continue to use 180-bed Buchanan while the new hall is built. Then, WCU will decide whether to renovate Buchanan or demolish it.
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has authorized a $48 million budget for the residence hall project. The money will come from residential living cash reserves and debt service, funded through student housing fees.
Clark-Nexsen’s Asheville-based office designed the project and Vannoy Construction’s Asheville-based office has been selected to build it.
New science building on the way
Design work has started on Western Carolina University’s new natural sciences building, a $110 million building to be funded through the N.C. Connect Bond passed in 2016.
The building is expected to be in design through spring 2018, with construction beginning thereafter and stretching through 2021.
“This is a construction that will last a long time,” Mike Byers, WCU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, told university trustees during a June 1 committee meeting.
The building will replace an existing facility that’s been around since the 1970s. The current facility has long been too small to accommodate growing numbers of science programs, and too antiquated to house today’s sensitive scientific instruments.
Construction will begin on or near the site of the existing building and will likely take place in phases, with part of the new facility constructed before the existing building is demolished.
Lord Aeck Sargent — which has offices in Atlanta — is completing design work, with New York City-based Skanska USA, which has offices in Durham, selected as construction manager at risk.