WMU revamps campus to create gathering spaces

Western Michigan University's campus soon will feature student gathering spots and buildings geared to students with special interests, such as health and wellness, engineering and aviation. University officials are making the move to create "neighborhoods" on campus.
Over the next two years WMU will implement a long-term strategic plan to blend students' housing and dining needs, build a sense of community and strengthen their sense of connection to the larger university.
The campus will be organized into four neighborhoods that can accommodate more than 6,800 students. WMU anticipates it's an investment of $84 million. That comes on top of $30 million spent on new campus living and dining facilities invested since 2006. 

Major building projects that are part of the plan include a $48 million, 750-bed residence hall that makes up much of the Center Neighborhood, and a $36 million, 65,000-square-foot dining facility will be built in the Valley Neighborhood. 
The neighborhoods are:
• West Neighborhood -- Recently built Western View-apartment-style residence halls and the new Western View Community Center.
• Valley Neighborhood -- Six existing residence halls, all with upgraded bathrooms; a major new dining facility; and former dining areas renovated to become community, social, study and academic support areas. Nearby Goldsworth Valley Apartments also are included.
• Center Neighborhood -- A residence hall built for fall 2015 occupancy where Bigelow and Hoekje halls now stand. Center Neighborhood also includes nearby Henry Hall and the Hoekje/Bigelow dining room that is in the Bernhard Center.

• South Neighborhood -- A set of existing residence halls for upperclassmen. "The Big Four" is made up of Draper, Siedschlag and Ernest and Smith Burnham Halls. "The Little Three" halls--Davis, French and Zimmerman are part of the neighborhood as are the Elmwood Apartments and the recently renovated Bistro 3 dining facility.
Each residential neighborhood is unique and takes its shape and character from key elements surrounding them, such as academic buildings; recreation, entertainment and athletic facilities; and access to off-campus retailers. 
An example of what's to come can be seen in the South Neighborhood. There the Bistro 3 dining facility has the same restaurant-like amenities the university is developing for all the neighborhoods.
In the Valley, for instance, the dining facility will feature seven restaurant-style food service areas offering foods ranging from pizza and pasta to rotisserie specialties. The dining hall location will be identified this fall with input from the WMU community. While designed to primarily serve students in the Valley Neighborhood, the new dining facility will be open to all students, faculty, staff and visitors.
Once the new dining hall is completed, existing dining halls will be repurposed as student gathering spots and special interest student facilities that serve some of the special interest housing that is part of the residence halls.  
The new residence hall will be designed with incoming students in mind and will include such features as central but private bath areas maintained by university staff and third-floor social and recreational areas open to all residents. 
The residence hall will features many gathering spots--living and recreation areas where students can interact with others and feel comfortable hanging out. Laundry, lounge, and study areas; and,common living areas on each floor also are included.
"We've developed a strategic plan to create communities that enhance social interaction and will appeal to the kind of students we seek to recruit and retain," says Dr. Diane K. Anderson, vice president for student affairs. "We're creating neighborhoods that are intentionally designed to support student success, respond to student and parent expectations, and allow us to compete well against our competitor institutions."
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University
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