UWS seeks fundsMADISON – Increased demand for on-campus housing has the University of Wisconsin-Superior requesting $13 million to renovate two aging dormitories.
By: By Kevin Murphy/For the Telegram, Superior Telegram
MADISON – Increased demand for on-campus housing has the University of Wisconsin-Superior requesting $13 million to renovate two aging dormitories.
Both Ross and Hawkes halls were built as four-story structures in 1967. However, waning enrollments and interest in dorm life in the 1970s lead to the university’s closing Hawkes and leasing it to community non-profit organizations.
Since then an elevator was added to Hawkes and some remodeling was done to accommodate its tenants. Ross continued as a dorm and the rooms received minor remodeling to provide some variety to the traditional double occupancy arrangements, but the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems are original.
Demand for housing for summer camps and programs and renewed interest by traditional students has since pushed dorms to their 750-student capacity. That prompted the university to consider remodeling both dorms and reopening Hawkes, Interim Chancellor Christopher Markwood said after a UW Regents committee meeting Thursday.
The number of students living in dorms on the UWS campus has increased from 550 three years ago to 800 last year, said Markwood.
“Students are looking for the whole experience that comes from living on campus and they see residence halls as providing that and value, too,” he said.
The dorms have the traditional cinder block walls with double occupancy rooms facing a central corridor leading to common restrooms. Students are used to better and more private living conditions which can make selling 1960s-era accommodations a difficult sell, Markwood admits.
“That’s why we’re trying to do the remodeling. We need to demonstrate to the state that we’re filling all of our spaces before we can begin the renovations and eventually, hopefully new construction as well,” said Markwood.
Some significant remodeling to the rooms and bathrooms will probably be necessary to make them interesting to today’s students, said Markwood. Reconfiguring the double occupancy rooms to yield some shared and private space is the goal but specific details weren’t available Thursday, said Markwood.
The two dorms are located five blocks south of the main campus along Catlin Ave. The idea of constructing a common area to link them has been discussed in design meetings as a common facility could serve as operations and security offices for each dorm, said Markwood. However, details of that facility “are still on the drawing board,” he said.
When renovated, the dorms will accommodate 400-500 beds, which could result in an increase of 150-180 beds, depending on the final design, said Markwood.
The renovations will be funded by dorm fees which won’t increase despite the project’s $13 million price tag. The increased revenue from the net increase in the number of occupied rooms should be sufficient to fully fund the project, Markwood said.
Rates for double occupancy at Ross Hall are $1,525 per semester. Juniors are eligible for a 20 percent discount.
Renovations are slated to begin in the summer of 2012 and may up to a year to complete requiring some transitional housing for displaced students.
“We’ve joke about my basement becoming Markwood Hall, but I don’t think my wife would be supportive of that,” Markwood said.
A $300,000 parking lot and entrance plaza for the Yellowjacket Student Union was also considered by a Regents committee Thursday. The student center opened in January but construction bids came in $300,000 above budget cutting the parking lot from the original project.
The campus has the $300,000 “in cash from preparing for (the student union) project for many years,” said Markwood, who was asking the Regents for the authority to spend it.
The old Rothwell Student Center has been demolished to make way from the new parking lot, which fills a critical need for parking on campus, said Markwood.
The lot will serve visitors arriving from the campus’ main entrance at Belknap and Catlin Ave. and will be a focal point directing visitors to the information center inside the new student union.
Construction of the parking lot is scheduled to begin and be completed next summer.
The dorm renovations and parking lot request are part of a $620 million 2011-13 capital budget request the Regents approved Thursday and forward it to the State Building Commission for consideration. The entire Board of Regents approved the parking lot project Friday.