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New residence hall approved

Project on Virginia Avenue to open in 2015

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  • Story by Ryan Gavin
  • Photos by Shane Epping and courtesy of Residential Life
  • Published: July 2, 2012
Mark Twain Hall construction

Mark Twain Hall, built in 1963 and named for the famous Missouri author, gets a facelift in summer 2012. The renovation, like the new Virginia Avenue South residence hall, is part of the larger Residential Life Master Plan, which is projected to be completed by 2020.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators has approved the construction of a new 330-bed residence. Tentatively called Virginia Avenue South Housing, the hall will open for fall 2015.

After 10 consecutive years of record-breaking enrollment and a consequent increased demand for on-campus housing, Mizzou is introducing the Virginia Avenue South Housing as the latest step in an attempt to meet current and projected demand.

Meeting demand

The Department of Residential Life began addressing the growing need for housing in 1997, when students were surveyed about their housing preferences. Existing facilities were evaluated, but due to the overwhelming cost, expansion plans were temporarily shelved.

As enrollment continued to increase, the need for expansion and improvement became more pressing. In 2001, the implementation of a comprehensive Residential Life Master Plan (RLMP) was approved. The five-phase plan designated replacement or renovation of all residence halls on campus while increasing capacity by approximately 1,000 beds. This plan anticipated a moderate level of enrollment growth — about 1 percent per year.

On-campus enrollment at that time was 23,666. In the years since the RLMP’s implementation, enrollment has grown an average of 3 percent annually, skyrocketing past 30,000 students — a number once considered a distant goal. Fall 2011 on-campus enrollment was 31,745, a record Mizzou may break again in 2012.

Though the demand for housing has been high in recent years, the decision to build a new hall on campus is made with long-term projections in mind.

“We have to think about things over a 25-to-30-year time period,” says Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life. “Yes, we’ve had an upward trend, but it wasn’t until last summer that we considered adding a new residence hall because of the anticipated growth.”

From plan to hall

With approved plans to move forward with the construction of Virginia Avenue South Housing, Residential Life again looks to the RLMP in determining how the building will look and function. The 2001 RLMP includes what is called the “ideal model.” It's intended to guide new construction by identifying the needs, wants and preferences of staff and students.  Everything from unit types to amenities to hall and building size and organization is included.

With these guidelines in place, a general plan for the building begins to take shape: 330 bed spaces — 20 percent single rooms and 80 percent double rooms — in buildings no more than five stories high, with community-style restrooms, dedicated study space and shared social lounge space. While additional capacity might yield certain benefits, Residential Life asserts that the advantages of keeping the buildings intimate and personal in scale outweigh them.

"It’s extremely important to us because it speaks to our philosophy of providing not only a place to stay but a close-knit community," Minor says. "We’re trying to shape a more positive student experience and serve the broader institutional mission."

The location of Virginia Avenue South Housing, just south of Hospital Drive between Virginia Avenue and College Avenue, may seem odd, but the explanation is simple. The green space south of Virginia Avenue Housing (Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence) was a natural first choice, but the location had to be pushed farther south to avoid an expensive re-routing of nearby utilities.

Green light

With plans approved by the Board of Curators, a kickoff meeting took place shortly after. Design meetings follow over the next 12-18 months. Once the design phase nears completion, University Planning, Design and Construction or Campus Facilities begins a search for a contractor to build the hall, a process that takes another 12-18 months.

In all, it’s a three-year process full of planning and communication, enabling the university to deliver what was promised in the beginning stages.

Once a hall has been completed, Residential Life gives the hall’s first residents the opportunity to share their opinions about the hall and its functionality, identifying what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes feedback surprises the department, but it’s used in future planning nonetheless.

"We're paying attention to what our students think and say and what's actually working for them," Minor says.

new hall location

Plans are under way for the construction of a new 330-bed residence hall, tentatively called Virginia Avenue South Housing, which is expected to open in fall 2015. The planned location for the new residence hall, outlined in red, is south of the original location of Hospital Drive between Virginia Avenue and College Avenue.

Read more in:  On CampusFamily & CommunityEducation

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Last updated: July 3, 2012