KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University's campus redevelopment work in the coming years will shift to what's known as South Neighborhood and will see construction of a student center, new student housing and an eye-catching new presence showcasing the part of campus that runs along Stadium Drive.
"This is all about transforming the student experience on campus—making sure the student center and residential neighborhoods are set up to offer our students a truly transformational environment," says Dr. Diane Anderson, vice president for student affairs.
Anderson points to changing demographics on campus that include strong international enrollment and a growing number of students from other states. Those changes to the student body coupled with the changing housing preferences of all students make this the time to consider and carefully plan for future housing needs, she says.
"It's more important than ever that we provide a rich student experience on campus—one that is cutting edge, enriching and engaging," she notes.
The recent shift in focus will mean the first new student housing in the area will be ready for occupancy in 2020, while a new student center is targeted to come online in 2021. Intense long-range planning for the entire South Neighborhood is expected to begin soon and be completed by next October. That neighborhood master plan will guide development through 2023.
The South Neighborhood is highly visible from the adjacent Stadium Drive. That fact offers the University the opportunity to turn the area into a state-of-the-art campus gateway that offers a "Wow" factor along what WMU President Edward Montgomery recently noted is "the longest contiguous face of the campus."
City administrators have signaled interest in future development along Stadium Drive as well, and the Michigan Department of Transportation is looking at development work near the Stadium Drive/Howard Street intersection.
"The chance to develop for our students' needs at the same time we coordinate with community needs and planning is a very appealing prospect," Anderson notes. She says that potential is a prime reason Montgomery and other senior leaders are convinced the South Neighborhood needs to be next in line for development.
Earlier this year, the South Neighborhood was identified as the site for a long-discussed new student center. More recently, Anderson says, a decision was made to also develop new student housing in the area. The first new housing in South Neighborhood will replace Elmwood Apartments, a tract of 16 low-rise student apartment buildings that house about 220 students.
Students currently living in Elmwood were informed in early November that once the academic year is over and their leases end, the apartments will be demolished to prepare the site for new student housing construction in 2019. Elmwood residents were surveyed to determine their interest in other parts of the WMU residence system, and Residence Life personnel are working to help interested residents transition to new housing options. Elmwood demolition will begin in late May.
The South Neighborhood development is in keeping with a campuswide housing and dining master plan adopted in 2013. It divides the main campus into four residential neighborhoods:
- Valley Neighborhood, home to three major residence hall complexes and Goldsworth Valley Apartments as well as the new state-of-the art Valley Dining Center. Valley Neighborhood was expected to see the next new housing on campus before the recent development shift to the South Neighborhood was made.
- Center Neighborhood, home to the new Western Heights residence complex, Henry Hall and the Hoekje/Bigelow Dining Hall.
- West Neighborhood, home to Western View apartment-style residence halls and the Western View Community Center.
- South Neighborhood, which now includes Elmwood and Stadium Drive Apartments, Bistro 3 dining facility and two complexes known as the "Big Four" and the "Little Three" residence halls.
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