Newman Hall proceeds with next construction phase

Construction material for the addition being built onto the existing building surround the Newman Hall sign Sunday. Erica Magda

Construction material for the addition being built onto the existing building surround the Newman Hall sign Sunday. Erica Magda

By Meghan O'Kelly

As some University residence halls begin a long-term face lift, Newman Hall, a private certified housing option, is keeping up with updates of its own.

Newman Hall is in the midst of its second phase of a four-phase renovation. After the completion of a new parking lot and convent, construction is now under way on a new wing of the residence hall, set to open for the fall semester of 2008.

“I think it will be tremendous,” said the Rev. Gregory Ketcham, director of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center. “Everything will be state of the art and brand new.”

Mark Randall, director of institutional advancement, said the primary reason for the renovation is because Newman Hall has seen a waiting list of 150 people beyond capacity for approximately the last seven years. The residence houses 300 students, but Randall said the new wing will increase capacity to 560. The $26 million project is part of a four-phase, $46 million renovation being financed by a bond issue.

“We wanted to make sure that anyone who wanted to live at Newman had the opportunity to do so,” he said. “Our ministry has grown so much in the last 10 to 15 years that we wanted to have room to do that.”

The living space will include rooms ranging from single private rooms to four-person suites.

The new wing will include a cafeteria featuring a salad bar, deli bar, stone pizza oven and rotisserie station, among other new choices, Randall said. Newman Hall serves meals through a traditional buffet line.

“We don’t want our students eating in their rooms by themselves,” Randall said, explaining that the new structure will contribute to the sense of community Newman Hall provides its residents. “It’s a brand new structure, and we’re going to be offering a lot more than we do now.”

Along with dining and living space, the new wing will include choir practice rooms, meeting rooms, a laundry and fitness center and the Newman Club, a space specifically for nonresident students. Randall said Newman Club will have lounge furniture, a fireplace and reading materials. A convenience store and coffee bar will also attract nonresidents to Newman Hall, Randall said.

Megan Gober, sophomore in Communications, is living in Newman Hall for a second year and thinks the plans will do just that.

“It will give the Catholic students who don’t live here a place to go,” she said. “It will be a meeting place.”

Randall said room rates for students opting to live in the new wing next school year have not been determined but are likely to increase because of the additional amenities the rooms will provide.

Ketcham is confident that the 260 new spots will be filled next year. He said staff has been going into Catholic high schools in neighboring Illinois dioceses and major Catholic high schools to spread the word.

“We think having a second residence hall is going to double how dynamic our ministry is now,” Ketcham said. “I think we offer a tremendous amount to this University, and I think we’re going to enhance what we offer to the University.”