At the end of the fall semester, Bessie B. West Hall will be officially closed for renovations to improve its infrastructure and interior aesthetic. The building is expected to be reopened in time for the Fall 2016 semester.
Students will be temporarily moved out of the residence hall until renovations are complete, according to Nick Lander, assistant director of Resident Life. Around 240 students currently reside in West Hall, and these students will have to move to open spots in other residence halls.
Victor Armstrong, sophomore in athletic training and resident of West, said he loves the relationship he has with his floor but that he is excited to see the changes.
“The vibe on the fifth floor is amazing,” Armstrong said. “I think we are a big family, and we truly do have a great relationship. (But) it is (a welcome change) since West is one of the oldest dorms on campus. KSU is just making everything great around here. West will be a 2.0 version and it will still look great.”
To make the move easier for students, Housing and Dining Services will allow them to have a say in where they move and will assist in the move-out process if needed.
“We will hopefully start moving some students within the next few weeks and try to move as many as we can throughout the course of the semester,” Lander said. “What we’re going to do is ask students what they’re looking for, what building they want to move to, what type of room they want and if they want to stay with their roommate or not.”
K-State’s staff will try to accommodate requests, but won’t always be able to follow through, as there are many students to move.
“We’ll do our best to accommodate their requests, so it’s not necessarily going to be ‘first come, first served,’” Lander said. “It’s going to be more about matching what the students wants and what spaces we have at that given time.”
Housing and Dining Services will also work to relocate staff by having them join other staffs nearby.
“We feel like West Hall has always had a good community, but this allows us to improve it from those other standpoints,” Lander said. “It’s the oldest building in the Derby Complex, and it’s not in bad shape by any means, but we have an opportunity now to make it better.”
Lander said the benefits of the changes will please next year’s residents and staff of West Hall.
“Most people have been very understanding, and so we’ll be excited to see how it all goes,” Lander said. “If nothing else, they’ll like the better Wi-Fi. If there’s one thing you want to do that makes students happy, it’s improve your Wi-Fi.”
However, students and staff weren’t the only concerns that arose when planning the project; the price and timeline of the renovations were also very important.
According to Skyler Harper, associate director of Housing and Dining Services, the project had been under way for about five years.
“It was first planned as an infrastructure project to replace piping and some electrical,” Harper said. “We quickly added life safety items like new fire alarms and sprinklers. Since we were doing so much work to the building, we decided to add some significant changes to the bathrooms to give more privacy to the students and finally a much needed cosmetic facelift to the student rooms and public area. (We) of course upgraded the Wi-Fi.”
Harper said the plan was not to have to move students out but rather slowly renovate the building.
“All of these projects were originally planned to be phased in over time, but by delaying a couple of years, we are going to do the project all at one time and complete it a couple of years earlier,” Harper said.
Lander said that now was the most ideal time for the renovations to take place due to the occupancy numbers, and it is financially beneficial to Housing and Dining Services.
“We felt like we could go ahead and close the building for a semester, which gives our construction process the entire spring and summer, so we can reopen in the fall of next year,” Lander said. “If we hadn’t done it that way, we probably would’ve had to do it over the course of three summers, which is a little bit more difficult and more expensive. So, by doing it this way, we save a little bit of money and get the process done faster.”
Harper said she was optimistic about the project as well, and hoped that it would be well received once completed.
“I think the students will like all the changes,” Harper said. “Everything will look and work better than it does now. The floor (and) ceiling finishes and bathroom layouts will be the same as the new residence hall we are building in Wefald Hall. The infrastructure work will not only make the building systems work better, but they will also be more efficient and sustainable.”