Residence halls begin changes for better living

By Paul Biasco

New construction projects are sprouting up all over campus, including those that will provide new living spaces for students.

Construction on a new residence hall and cafeteria being built at the Gregory and Peabody drive residence halls and an addition to the Newman Hall residence hall at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center are both under way.

The Peabody and Gregory construction will add a new residence hall and dining hall to the northeast corner of the land, which will both be LEED-certified, a “green” building rating system.

The University has not built a new residence hall for 50 years, said Jim Rooney, associate director for residential life.

The residence hall will be the new home of the Beckwith Program, which houses students with physical disabilities.

The building plans to house 120 students after the first stage and eventually will hold 450 after the project is complete, Rooney said.

The new residence hall will include 20 to 25 percent larger rooms, remote controls for the window blinds and lights and more bathrooms, each used by only five students.

“We think this will be the best building of its kind,” Rooney said.

The recently named Ikenberry Dining Hall will also be state-of-the-art.

One of the major changes will be market-style dining, replacing buffet-style dining now in existing dining halls.

The building will also feature a coffee shop that will be open nearly 24 hours a day as well as a convenience store, said Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman.

Cardiovascular workout rooms with treadmills and exercise bikes, lots of study areas and conference space for students to utilize are also in the plans.

“If you need to grab a juice on the way to class, or if the dining hall is closed late at night, you can do that,” Kaler said.

“It sounds like it’s going very well. It’s always a challenge when you are trying to handle a major construction project right next to where so many students are living,” she added.

Rooney said University officials are doing their best to keep students informed about the project and the ways it may affect them.

Some students are not as pleased about the construction.

“I get woken up by the construction everyday and can’t take shortcuts through the Six Pack to class anymore,” said Alina Pacheco, a freshman at Forbes Hall.

The buildings are planned to be completed in March 2010, Rooney said.

St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, 604 E. Armory Ave., is in the process of constructing an addition to its Private Certified Housing residence, Newman Hall.

A 127,000-square-foot addition is under way, which will feature 57 suites with 244 bedrooms, holding 316 students as well as a main dining hall which will hold 300 students.

“We had about 150 students on the waiting list each year for the past six years and are running out of space for ministry rooms, and the current cafeteria is too small and cramped,” said Mark Randall, director of institutional advancement at St. John’s.

The dining hall will also be market-style to keep up with the University’s renovations.

The building will include a bookstore, a convenience store and a fitness center.

Construction is set to be completed in August 2008.