Western building new residence hall, studying long-range needs of campus

CULLOWHEE – With construction under way on the third new residential facility to be built in the past two years, Western Carolina University is taking a long-range look at the housing needs of a growing campus.

The newest residence hall, a 290-bed facility located off Norton Road, is scheduled to be complete in fall 2005. University officials say the hall is needed to help meet the demand for student housing on a campus that has seen its enrollment jump by 16.23 percent in two years, from 7,033 students in 2002 to 8,396 students last fall.

“As enrollment continues to rise, we want to be sure we have the housing facilities in place to accommodate the increase in the number of students,” said Keith Corzine, director of residential living at Western. “At the same time, we have some older residence halls that we must renovate to better serve the needs of today’s students. The new Norton Road Residence Hall will enable us to accomplish both of those goals.”

A $9.7 million project, the hall is being built by American South, the same company that completed the 300-bed Central Drive Residence Hall in time for the beginning of the 2004 fall semester. A four-story building with a brick facade and a metal roof, the Norton Road facility will consist of a 50-50 ratio of single rooms and double rooms with semi-private bathrooms, said Tim Chapman, associate director for facilities.

The building will be divided into eight wings, housing approximately 35 students per wing. Each wing will have a common study room and a multi-purpose living room with a small kitchen area. “The design is intended to provide thematic housing for communities of students with common academic or extracurricular interests, providing a true living and learning environment for residents,” said Corzine. “It’s part of our emphasis on linking academic programs to the place where they spend most of their time on campus. A residence hall is no longer just a place to sleep. We’re trying to bridge the gap between in-class and out-of-class experiences.”

The new hall also will be equipped for wireless network computing, and will include a multi-purpose classroom and convenience store.

The first two floors of the building are expected to be ready for occupancy in time for the opening of the 2005 fall semester, with the top two floors finished about a month later. When the Norton Road facility is complete, it will bring the total number of student beds added since 2003 to 842.

In addition to the 300-bed Central Drive Residence Hall that opened in fall 2004, the university also unveiled last fall The Village, a 252-bed housing complex for fraternities, sororities and other student organizations.

A new 290-bed residence hall facility is beginning to rise near the Village housing complex on Western's Cullowhee campus.

A new 290-bed residence hall facility is beginning to rise near the Village housing complex on Western’s Cullowhee campus.

While trying to keep up with current student housing demands, the university also is attempting to determine its future housing needs. Western’s Division of Student Affairs is conducting a survey of faculty, staff and students as the first step in the development of a 10-year master plan for campus residential facilities.

The university, working with the firm Brailsford & Dunlavey, is reviewing its existing on-campus housing services, analyzing the off-campus housing markets, and examining the anticipated demands for housing from all members of the university community – students, faculty and staff.

“We know that Western has grown dramatically in the past couple of years, and we believe that it will continue to grow to an enrollment of more than 10,000 students in the next few years,” said Robert Caruso, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“As the student population increases, the university will be hiring more faculty and staff to serve those students. We need to take a look at the ability of the off-campus housing market to keep up with the demand that will be created by the growth of the university, and we need to research the on-campus housing needs of faculty and staff of the future,” Caruso said.

Consultants recently conducted an on-line survey of faculty and staff to seek input on housing needs. The residential life master plan, a 10-year roadmap for potential new campus housing developments, is expected to be complete by May.