Students, officials at Stephens College react to property sales

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | 5:40 p.m. CST; updated 9:30 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 11, 2012

*This article has been changed to clarify comments from Stephens College marketing manager Rebecca Kline.

COLUMBIA — Stephens College administrators and students reacted differently to the announced sale of Hillcrest Hall and Stephens Auditorium.

Stephens College has agreed to sell these buildings to the Hagan Scholarship Foundation for its new college-preparatory academy. The buildings are slated for demolition.

"We wanted to put the space to better use," Stephens College marketing manager Rebecca Kline said.*

There will be enough space in the existing residence halls to house all the students when Hillcrest Hall is gone, Kline said.

Silverthorne Arena, built in 1998, and the Kimball Ballroom, which is part of the remodeled Lela Raney Wood Hall, have replaced the old auditorium as the place where Stephens College's events are held.

"We have been undertaking remodeling other parts of campus so we have options to move people and programs," Kline said.

Yet, both buildings house important features for student life, and some students wondered what will happen when these amenities are no longer available. For the theater department, losing the auditorium means relocating the large costume shop and dance studios.

"I don't know where the costume shop will go or where the dance studios will go with the auditorium gone," freshman Heidi Womelsdorf said. Womelsdorf is a theater and acting major.

Hillcrest Hall also houses the old gym.

"People are freaking out about the old gym in Hillcrest Hall being gone, but they're not going to take away our resources — everything will still be easily accessible," freshman Kirsten Izzett said.

Some students are sad to see the buildings go because of their historical significance.

The 2,300-seat auditorium, built in 1948, was used to host activities such as commencement ceremonies, theatrical performances and community events.

"The old auditorium used to be considered the old Jesse," Izzett said. "It's sad when old architecture can't be preserved."

Hillcrest Hall has been a residence hall for third and fourth year students since it was built in 1965. It was the first hall created for the college's upper division and was completed around the same time as the James Madison Wood Quadrangle.

"Historically, it's sad that they'll be destroyed, but if the space is going to be used for something better, I understand completely," senior Caroline Morgan said.

To Stephens College President Dianne Lynch, the change will be beneficial for both the institution and its students.

"The impact will only be positive," Lynch said.

By selling properties Stephens College no longer needs, the college will have new opportunities to invest in the programs and facilities that provide more value to the students, Lynch said.

Several local and national developers expressed interest in the properties, but their intent was to build high-rise student housing, Lynch said.

"The trustees of Stephens College and of the Stephens College Endowment Foundation agreed that we would be patient and look for a neighbor with a different vision for what our community could be, because we take being good neighbors very seriously," Lynch said.

Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.

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