Board endorses design concept for campus residence hall

This rendering depicts a new 600-bed residence hall planned for the upper section of WCU. (Architectural rendering provided by Clark Nexsen)

A new 600-bed residence hall planned for the upper section of the Western Carolina University campus took one step closer to becoming a reality as the WCU Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed a design concept for the building.

The action came during the board’s quarterly meeting Friday, June 2.

The new residence hall will be located on what is now a parking area between Judaculla Hall (formerly Central Drive Hall) and Brown Hall, a renovated dining facility nearing completion and scheduled to be open to serve students, faculty and staff when the fall semester begins in August.

The residence hall design approved by the board calls for a five-story building consisting of two separate wings. Construction of the facility will create a pedestrian flow leading from Judaculla Hall, beneath a connector linking the two wings of the building and toward Brown Hall, Matt Ketchum, WCU’s director of facilities planning, design and construction, told trustees.

Designers considered six different options for the building, selecting this one to present to the board because the project takes place on the flattest land available in that part of campus, eliminating the need for expensive retaining walls, Ketchum said.

The plan represents a change from previous plans approved in 2014, which called for additions and renovations to the existing Buchanan Residence Hall.

“The residence hall project will enable us to maximize our bed count,” Ketchum said. “This will allow us to keep Buchanan open for an additional length of time while we are building this new 600-bed facility.” Buchanan currently has about 180 beds.

The new hall is expected to be ready for occupancy by the 2019 fall semester, he said. At that point, the university will determine whether to renovate Buchanan Hall or demolish it.

WCU is currently authorized by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to spend $48 million on the residence hall project on upper campus. The trustees approved Vannoy Construction of Asheville as construction manager at risk for the project at their meeting last December.