South Neighborhood work kicked off with input sessions, survey

Contact: Cheryl Roland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Work to redevelop part of the Western Michigan University campus into the new South Neighborhood kicked off this month with two input sessions and an online survey designed to get campus community views on what amenities should be included within and surrounding a new student center and campus housing.

Two community input sessions were held April 12 in the Bernhard Center lobby. A third input session designed for students is set for 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 3, in 157-159 Bernhard Center. The session will focus on using design scenarios that demonstrate how attributes like multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion can play out in the design and amenities included in the new student center.

In addition to the input sessions, an online student survey has been launched covering a variety of topics such as housing options and amenities, sustainability, shared facilities and parking.

Take online survey

The sessions and survey are the first steps in an initiative announced last fall to transform the area of campus adjacent to Stadium Drive into a new campus gateway that is more connected with the community and offers eye-catching appeal to prospective students and campus visitors.

Information from the input sessions and survey will be used by campus planning staff and teams from CannonDesign and Stantec Architecture, consulting firms hired to help develop the new center and housing. Representatives of the firm Perkins+Will also were present at the feedback sessions to solicit input on the sub-campus master plan.

"The firms we're working with are truly excited about the opportunity to work together and leverage the elements to the South Neighborhood work in a way that will give us something pretty phenomenal," says Dr. Diane Anderson, vice president for student affairs. "They're feeling real synergy that has been enhanced by the terrific input we're getting from students, faculty and staff, as we all work to create space that will be adaptable and can truly transform our campus."

Work currently planned for the South Neighborhood includes:

  • Development of a sub-campus master plan, to be completed in October.
  • Construction of a new student center to open in 2021.
  • Demolition this May of Elmwood Apartments.
  • Construction of new student housing in the Elmwood footprint, with groundbreaking set for spring 2019.

Construction on both the student center and the new student housing is slated to begin in 2019. Future plans for the South Neighborhood include additional student housing and other mixed-use facilities.

"We're just getting started with planning for the student center and the South Neighborhood housing," says David Dakin, director of planning, space management and capital projects. "We want to get everyone's best thoughts and ideas on what the facilities will be like."

Dakin says websites for the various projects are under development and will include online feedback mechanisms for the campus community.

The first sign of this work will be the removal of the Elmwood Apartments this summer. This, as well as future building, will require the removal and relocation of some trees. The University practice of planting two trees for every one removed will be implemented; one student suggested concentrating these to form a park.

More workshops will be scheduled to solicit input on the projects as they evolve. People can follow progress on all of the South Neighborhood work at these sites:

The WMU Build Facebook page is also available to follow progress on the projects.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.