Several years ago, Design Plus, a western Michigan-based design firm, drafted a Master Plan for a complete revamping of Oakland University Housing.
Four years of deliberation later, plans to renovate existing facilities and to construct new ones are making progress and will be discussed at this fall’s Board of Trustees meetings.
The first residence hall facility expansion would take place parallel to Walton Boulevard and across from Hamlin and Vandenberg Halls. According to the master plan, the new facility would have approximately 450 beds.
Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Beth Snyder said the residence hall would be geared toward freshmen and sophomores.
Before construction begins, the plan must be approved and an architect firm must be selected. Housing Director Jim Zentmeyer said he would like for the prospective firms to visit Oakland before a decision is made.
Snyder said OU’s BOT must approve the housing project. The next discussion, according to Snyder, would take place this October.
The Freshman Focus
Zentmeyer has worked with several other universities to tackle similar renovating projects as those of OU.
Altogether, he has seen national trends of what works and what doesn’t. What has worked, according to Zentmeyer, is housing’s initiative program the ‘First Year Experience.’
University housing launched this initiative as a way of engaging and helping students, especially in the first six weeks of their time at OU.
With the enhancement of the transition time on the forefront of the university’s priorities in shaping the housing experience, existing conditions need to change, according to Zentmeyer.
Buildings like Vandenberg and Hamlin have much longer hallways, spreading residents out. Zentmeyer calls it more of an apartment-style configuration, which in his opinion is “deadly” for keeping freshman on campus.
“It’s too far away, too removed and people don’t connect,” he said.
According to Zentmeyer, the configuration for the new facilities would look more like six to eight bedrooms per hallway and a common area.
Owen O’Connor, a junior elementary education major, spent this summer working as a conference assistant in housing. He finds the idea of expanding residence halls a refreshing possibility.
Last fall, O’Connor was a resident assistant during the housing overflow. He was in charge of one of the floors of the makeshift hotel dorms at Homestead Studio Suites.
The arrangement in the building resembled the long hallways of campus dorms and resulted in somewhat distant relationships.
“It makes it a lot harder for me as the RA to go and gather everyone,” O’Connor said. “When you have that lounge available, it makes it much easier for people to walk in and see what’s going on. It’s easier to make friends.”
Same building, new look
As part of the budget proposal, Zentmeyer has called for some much anticipated renovations to the campus’s current residence halls.
This would include restored plumbing, electrical systems, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and the addition of emergency sprinklers. There are also plans for a more modern interior.
Zentmeyer said he is looking to do away with the “gang bathrooms” of Hill and Van Wagoner and make them more personalized.
In order to make these renovations, parts of the resident facilities would need to be demolished.
Zentmeyer said the timeline, if the budget proposal is approved, would consist of renovating Hamlin and Vandenberg first during the course of two summers.
Housing plans to commence construction on what they are calling “The Quad” would be in 2014, if the proposal is passed.
The plan, Zentmeyer said, is to shift attention away from the center of Oakland’s campus.
“I see this as a chance to broaden the attention of campus,” he said. “I think in the long haul that it’s a good thing we’re expanding so that attention is not concentrated in one, central area — it’s elongated.”
“The campus has been growing ridiculously fast for the last number of years. I think spreading out is a great idea,” O’Connor said. “Eventually, it will grow anyway. You might as well start now.”
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