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Campus overhaul

MU construction a source of improvement but also inconvenience
Thursday, April 7, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:27 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The makeover craze has swept MU. The campus is undergoing a facelift as many new and remodeled buildings are taking shape. But the improvements have come at a cost. Students have sacrificed money and convenience for these enhancements.

Housing improvements and a remodeled recreation center are in progress, and an updated student union is planned.

The new housing will offer upgraded facilities and more options, including suite-style living areas. The student recreation center boasts a new indoor running track, locker rooms, and exercise and weight equipment. Remodeling Brady Commons would increase the size and offer more dining and seating options.

Although these improvements will enhance the MU campus, current students must endure the inconveniences of construction.

The Residential Life Master Plan includes upgrades or replacements for all MU housing facilities. The plan will be completed in four phases, each lasting three to four years. Before this plan, the most recent housing improvements took place in the 1960s.

The Virginia Avenue housing project group, part of the plan’s first phase, opened with four new residential halls in August. The suite-style rooms house a total of 721 students and encompass 217,000 square feet.

Meanwhile, the Southwest Campus housing is under construction on the former site of the Blair Group at Stadium Boulevard and Providence Road.

[photo]

Construction employees work on the Southwest Campus housing project.

(JASON JOHNS/Missourian)

“Because (of) the age of our facilities, the need to comprehensively address the facility structure and infrastructure was necessary,” said Frankie Minor, director of the Department of Residential Life. “Additionally, the facilities were designed for students of a different era, and we needed facilities that reflect not just the need for today’s, but for tomorrow’s students as well. In essence, we had to address the facility needs for them to continue to be functional, but also because students deserved better.”

Construction on the Southwest Campus housing group began in the fall with the demolition of Smith and Donnelly residential halls and parking lot. The construction has led to disruptive noise and diminished parking.

Because the Department of Residential Life is considered an auxiliary operation, it must generate its own revenue to pay for the new buildings. The estimated cost of the master plan is $300 million, with each phase self-supported financially.

“We don’t receive any money from the state of Missouri or the University of Missouri,” Minor said. “Technically, the residential halls are paid for through the sale of revenue bonds, which are paid off with the money that students pay to live there.”

The cost to live in the new residential hall varies depending on the type of room and meal plan but runs roughly $1,500 more per school year than living in the older halls.

Phase four of construction at the MU Recreational Center began in January. The project was funded partially by a $75 increase in student fees, voted on by a student referendum in 2001. While many students enjoy the new center, the construction caused some problems.

“Even though I lived only a few minutes away from the most of the buildings on campus, I would have to leave up to 15 or 20 minutes early to get around the traffic,” junior Katie Mitchell said. “Also, because I lived in Graham Hall, right behind the rec center, I woke up to the sounds of construction and machines most mornings. The big joke on our hall was that every day, the crane seemed to get closer and closer to our building. You couldn’t help but wonder if it would actually drop, one day.”

Diane Dahlman, director of recreation services and facilities, said the benefits of the new facility outweigh the inconveniences.

“Our students were terrific about understanding short-term sacrifice for long-term gains and rewards. This is the world’s finest campus recreation facility,” Dahlman said.

In April, MU students will vote on a referendum deciding whether, and how much, to increase student fees to pay for roughly half of a remodeling project for Brady Commons.

If the referendum passes, the fee increase — no more than $35 a semester — will not take effect until part of the new student center is available for use, which will be at least three years from now. Student Auxiliary Services and Campus Dining will pay for the remainder of the cost.

“This university is currently going through a phase that we went through in the 1960s. That is, massive construction,” said Michelle Froese of Student Auxiliary Services. “We have 15 years left on our Residential Life Master Plan, and with the completion of the rec center around the corner and plans for the student center, our campus is on the verge of drastic change, for the good.”


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