*Mark Twain Residence Hall has seven floors. An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect number of floors.
COLUMBIA — Sunlight streamed through a wall of windows in Mark Twain Residence Hall on Wednesday, showing off a bright new lobby with fresh paint and modern furniture.
Mark Twain Hall, which opened in 1964, is one of MU's older residence halls, but it doesn't look old now.
The 49-year-old building has been renovated inside and out, a job that took almost two years and cost $21.7 million.
The project is part of the fourth phase of a five-phase master plan to renovate or replace all of the residence halls at MU. Mark Twain was the eighth residence hall to be renovated as part of the plan.
The hall was closed in December 2011 and will be officially reopened Monday when students begin moving into their new home.
During an open house on Wednesday, Frankie Minor, the director of residential life, and Julaine Kiehn, who heads Campus Dining Services, spoke with excitement about the project.
They talked about of the physical improvements to the building, as well as creating a place to foster learning for the students.
"The students are the heart of this facility and important to making this res hall a true community," Minor said.
"When they get here, this building will turn from a hall into a home."
The lobby and entryway
The exterior of the building has been redone to update and fix any structural problems, including water damage and the lack of protective barriers around the roof.
Restructuring the exterior was so complete, Minor said, that you could see through the building when it was stripped down.
The entryway has been streamlined from a maze of corridors to a central foyer. The Fifth Street entrance now presents just two choices: one door leads to the residential tower on the right and the second turns left to the dining hall, now known as The MARK on 5th Street.
Minor said the reconfigured flow of the entryway will allow more flexibility for the dining hall and the residential portion. Because of the distinct separation, the two entities will be able to set their own hours.
Sustainability was also emphasized as the project used recycled materials for the carpet and floor tiles. Dual flush toilets will cut down on water usage, and students will have more control over the air-conditioning units in their rooms.
"Anyone who used to live here would tell you that our AC worked really, really well, to the point where it was so cold people were walking around in blankets," Minor said.
The residential tower
The first floor of the residential tower has an open feeling, with floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides. The lobby features a lounge with couches, tables, chairs and booths, as well as an information desk in one corner.
Minor said the new design emphasized natural light throughout the building, both in the lobby and in the long hallways connecting student rooms. Study spaces have been placed along the halls rather than at the ends to bring more light into the area.
Additional security between the lobby and student rooms is provided by a pair of double doors to the right of the information desk. The doors lead directly to the residential wing of the building, which has a capacity for 380 students over seven floors*.
This figure dropped from the pre-renovation capacity of 395 after more space was devoted to lounges and study rooms. Each floor now has two study rooms available around the clock.
Chase Rother, residence hall coordinator for Mark Twain, said the configuration of student rooms does not represent a dramatic change.
"It's more updating the facility to make it more modern," Rother said. "We like to think that all of our halls are already high quality. It just got some modernization."
All student rooms remain suite-style, with four students in two adjoining rooms who share a bathroom. The layout is similar to the way Mark Twain was set up before the renovation, except sinks have been moved into the bathrooms, instead of in the bedrooms.
Doors to the rooms now have both a keycard swipe lock and a number pad combination, adding another level of security. Each bedroom features two beds that can be lofted, two desks and two rolling wardrobes rather than built-in closets.
The rooms also have sockets for USB ports in the wall, in addition to traditional outlets — one of the improvements to the building's electrical system.
"In the past you could count the number of appliances students would bring to college on one hand," Minor said. "Now people are bringing five times that, so our electric system would get overloaded."
The MARK on 5th Street
The reconstruction added 50 places to the dining area, brought in new furniture and revamped the serving area.
The expansion was built over what used to be the only residence-hall pool on campus. It closed in 2011 to reduce building maintenance and keep the dorms consistent.
The new dining section features floor-to-ceiling windows, which continues the theme of natural light. The carpeting is blue — purely a coincidence, Kiehn said, given that it was built over what used to be a pool.
The serving area remains to the right of the entrance, but the remodeling added "the most expanded deli on campus," as well as a pizza bar and other options, Kiehn said.
"We want to enhance the Mizzou student experience and bring people together over food," she said. "We see it as a space where people can build community, as well as enjoy good food."
Like the old dining hall, The MARK on 5th Street is still a small, comfortable space.
"It's still a convenient space that isn't as big as other dining halls, so it feels more comfy-cozy than other places," Kiehn said.
The students and staff
Mark Twain will now be home to four learning communities in journalism/communication and education. The building will have a total of 11 student staff members: four peer advisers, six community advisers and one leadership adviser.
For most of the new staff, Mark Twain has been closed since they came to MU. Alex Peltier, a junior community adviser for the education community in Mark Twain, said during Wednesday's open house that he is excited to start working in the new building but can only base his expectations on word of mouth.
"I'm happy to see another res hall back on the map," he said. "I think this community bonds in a unique way because it's kind of separate from everyone else.
"I'm excited to get the community built up and make it a fun inviting place for residents to live."
Peltier, who was one of the tour guides for guests at the opening, said he was impressed with the new look of the building.
"From what I heard it wasn't the most eye-appealing place," he said. "But now it looks marvelous. They've done a lot of cool things to make it a warm, inviting environment."
Former residents of the building also seemed pleased with the renovations.
Kelsey Allen, a 2010 MU graduate, spent her freshmen and sophomore years living in Mark Twain. She said she remembered visiting as a prospective student, seeing the pool and suite-style bedrooms and knowing immediately that she wanted to live there.
Once she arrived, she said her two years were "a great experience," highlighted by the close-knit community with fellow residents. Other than cosmetic changes to the building, she said it looks the same in a lot of ways.
"It had a nostalgic feeling. Everything looks the same, just prettier," Allen said. "It still feels like the same Mark Twain."