Campus residential construction increases as university plans for the future

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One of the high rises, Scott Hall. Photo by Patrick Bogans

University Master Plan shows the expectation for the on-campus housing boom

Brick by brick, UNC Charlotte’s glistening red buildings create a distinctive landscape for the university. With the growth this urban university is experiencing, concern for more of the brick buildings is spreading, especially dormitories for the increasing student population.

Although the university has opened three new residence halls in the north and south areas of campus over the past two years, the university is struggling to play catch-up with enrollment numbers.

The recent development of new dorms at UNC Charlotte may seem rash to some. Many still claim that even the students who live on campus go home every weekend and do not participate in campus activities (giving the school the unflattering moniker of a “suitcase school”).

But the university’s Master Plan detailed this rise in residential housing from the very beginning to adjust with the ever-growing student population.

Soon after becoming chancellor for UNC Charlotte in 2005, Philip Dubois re-evaluated the Master Plan, which explicitly lays out the physical future of the university. In 2010, the new (and most recent) version of the Master Plan was released, molding the entire outlook of UNC Charlotte until 2018.

“That’s when the ‘neighborhood concept’ was born,” said Allan Blattner, senior associate director of Housing and Residence Life at UNC Charlotte.

The “neighborhood concept,” created at a Student Life Precinct Workshop for the Master Plan, detailed the future for student dormitories at the university.

The concept splits residential areas of UNC Charlotte into “villages.” The future of the three villages, South, East and North Village, are all detailed in the Master Plan. At the close of the Master Plan, there will be just over 7,000 beds on campus, according to Blattner.

South Village currently consists of the four high rises and Hunt Hall. The 400-bed Hunt Hall opened in Fall 2013, located where the Hunt Village apartments once stood.

Two other residential buildings are planned for South Village, along with the state-of-the-art two-story dining facility set to open in the summer of 2014.

East Village consists of Greek Village, Hawthorne, Hickory, Sycamore, Cedar and soon-to-be added Martin Hall. The $31.5 million Martin Hall is expected to be completed in July 2014, and will provide 408 beds in an apartment style facility, according to the UNC Charlotte Facilities Management website.

One more building is planned for the area, and will be constructed in the area where the old Martin Village apartments once stood.

According to Blattner, North Village is “essentially done at this point.” The 412-bed Belk Hall opened this year, and is the twin of Miltimore Hall.

With the addition of Martin Hall, a total of 1,649 beds will be added to the university within three years when students arrive next fall.

The sudden increase of dormitories at UNC Charlotte is directly related to the renovations for many campus dormitories, specifically renovations of the over 40-year-old high rise buildings located in the south side of campus.

Renovations of the high rise buildings were planned, so to compensate for the upcoming lack of student living spaces, alternate living spaces were in demand.

A previous Master Plan assumed the university would demolish the high rises in the near future, but page 43 of the new Master Plan explains that the university “has since decided to keep the towers intact, requiring new schematic designs for this area of campus.”

The renovation projects detailed in the Master Plan take one or two residential buildings offline for a full year until 2018, according to Blattner. Currently, Holshouser (a South Village high rise building) and Oak Halls will both close for renovations in May, and plan to open back up in Fall 2015.

“We had to build some new things first, because otherwise we’d be really decreasing the opportunities for students. So we built fast and early in the design process,” said Blattner.

Blattner reported that the university would go down to only 4,000 beds if those halls were not constructed and the renovations continued as planned.

The new buildings are completely structurally sound and safe; Belk Hall recently won the Distinguished Eagle Award for Excellence in Construction from the Associated Builders and Contractors of the Carolinas.

According to Blattner, all residential buildings across campus are refurbished every seven years in rotation. The building is repainted, new furniture is added and light fixtures are replaced.

Renovation plans for Holshouser and Oak Hall however are much more in-depth.

The buildings will essentially be gutted. To connect with Hunt Hall’s courtyard, Holshouser will be renovated so that a staircase will take pedestrians down to the patio in front of the courtyard. Holshouser will also hold new suites, efficient elevators and a lounge area at the expense of some double-bed rooms.

“We had planned to lose some beds in these renovations,” said Blattner. “Otherwise, why do it if you’re not willing to make some of these changes?”

Oak Hall will see similar changes; a courtyard and porch between Oak and Maple will be created. An elevator will also be added to the building.

“Over the next couple of years, we’ll go up and down a little bit as we take buildings offline a little bit for renovation,” said Blattner.

UNC Charlotte junior Amber Pittman is an on-campus resident. After commuting during her first year, she moved into North Village for two years. She values what it has done for her life as a young adult.

“It has taught me more about myself and has made me become more social,” said Pittman.

Many still claim that even the students who live on campus go home every weekend and do not participate in campus activities, giving UNC Charlotte the “suitcase school” nickname.

However, Blattner has been at UNC Charlotte since 2000, and claims that the school’s moniker is a complete misnomer. He said students are working and going out on the weekend, not necessarily going back to their home.

“I’ve been trying to get rid of that term around here for a long time, because it really doesn’t apply,” said Blattner. “If you look around here, more broadly than who is just eating in the [Student] Union on a Saturday afternoon, our students are here.”

As the Master Plan continues to be implemented on campus, changes to UNC Charlotte’s landscape and student life continues to be a topic worth discussing, and may even warrant a change in the perception of the university.

For insight into the Master Plan, visit the UNC Charlotte Division of Business Affairs website.


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