Despite the go-ahead with the University Square development, the regents abandoned the proposal for an 800-bed university residence hall when the total project costs came in at approximately $111.9 million. The residence hall, now scrapped, has reduced the University Square project to a $56.85 million deal.
According to Alan Fish, vice chancellor of Facilities, Planning and Management, the prospect of funding the new university residence hall was threatening the completion of the entire project.
Executive Management Inc. owns the University Square property and will now build a 12-story private apartment-style residence, according to Fish. The private apartments will have more amenities, similar to those offered at The Embassy and other large apartment residences in the area.
Fish noted the regents were comfortable putting the residence hall project on the back burner, but they were equally adamant about meeting the demand for university housing for first-year students in the near future.
According to Brian Jensen, the ASM intern for the Student Activities Center/University Health Services, the project would have encountered numerous problems with the state budget. The cost to build the project would have also increased tuition for students in an environment where annual increases of tuition continue.
According to Jensen, legislators and members of the State Building Commission agreed the project would raise the price of education at UW.
Despite possible tuition effects on UW, the university is actively seeking other locations to build residence halls, according to Paul Evans, director of University Housing.
UW is currently the only school in the Big Ten that does not guarantee all incoming freshmen university housing.
“We haven’t abandoned the goal and we’re still looking for how we can accommodate first-year students that we cannot house and still have a demand from,” Evans said.
The loss of the University Square residence hall project is disappointing, but is the right decision to assure that other construction continues, according to Evans.
The university is committed to funding a residence hall project that would house between 700-800 incoming freshmen. Evans said it is a “real priority” for the university.
When completed, the University Square development will house University Health Services, a new Student Activities Center, the Bursar’s Office, the Student Financial Services and other offices of the registrar under one roof.
“Rather than risk losing the entire project, it was best to take a strategic retreat [of the residence hall] and give us the best chance to get those services,” Fish said.
Fish said University Square is the “perfect location” for the services.
“We don’t have a backup plan [for the services],” Fish said. “There is no place on the lower campus where we could put these offices and the Student Activities Center.”
The new SAC will increase the percentage of registered student organizations’ space from 7 to 22 percent, according to a UW release.
The square will also feature a two-story structure for retail, including an underground parking lot.
Jensen said the private residence does detract from the student hub environment, but it will nonetheless be busy with student traffic and involvement from students living off campus as well as in the new building.
“We want to bring [UHS] close to dorms so that students can have better access on campus,” Jensen said. “We want all of these services close to the dorms so that there will be more student interaction with these services. This way students won’t have to walk all over creation to get where they need to go.”
Jensen said there is currently not enough space on campus for organizations, nor are health services located close enough to campus.
Jensen noted the centralized space will be large enough to accommodate the majority of student organizations with office space and suites for bigger organizations.
The Registrar and the Bursar’s office will be relocated from the A.W. Peterson Building to the University Square project. The A.W. Peterson Building is scheduled for demolition in 2007-2008.
The governor and state Legislature must approve the project before any go-ahead is given. Fish said the approval might come through in the next six months.
The current leases on University Square go through summer 2006, and no demolition can occur until then.
If construction begins in 2006, the anticipated completion date is 2009.