Campus Construction Update, May 20, 2019
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Matt Dull addresses podcast listeners' FAQs concerning Appalachian's west side campus construction.
Dave Blanks: Hey everybody, this is Dave Blanks from University Communications, happy to be with you once again. Also glad to be joined by Matt Dull. Hello, Matt Dull.
Matt Dull: Hey, morning.
Dave Blanks: We're doing this early. We're doing it early in the morning.
Matt Dull: We are.
Dave Blanks: I'm kind of not awake, so my apologies if I seem slightly lethargic or anything like that. But on this edition of the Campus Construction Update, we're going to address some of the questions that you, the listeners, or maybe not our listeners but people that have commented on Appalachian State's Facebook page, where we always share the Campus Construction Update. Got some good questions here to address, maybe some common misconceptions or just people's concerns, questions that have come up frequently.
If you are a listener and haven't seen it on Facebook, you can always contact Appalachian State University through the Facebook page. So we'll see that, our department, UComm, we'll see that. And you can comment on the podcast too; we welcome your comments.
So let's just jump right into some of the questions, comments. I'll just read it, and then you can address it, how does that sound?
Matt Dull: Yeah, sounds good.
Dave Blanks: OK, cool. Next year, non-freshmen have been denied on-campus housing, and are now scrambling to find apartments. Is it true that large numbers of students who want to live on campus are not able to do so because of the lack of available beds?
Matt Dull: That's a good question, and we really want to make sure that everyone who wishes to live on campus will have the opportunity to live on campus. But unfortunately, the demand we have to live on campus is greater than the supply. And that really, actually, leads to why we're doing the project in the first place.
We're really looking at not only replacing existing beds but also adding additional beds on campus, so that we can house more students who want to live on campus. We realize there's a high demand for students that want to live on campus, and we're trying to accommodate that by building. And unfortunately, that takes a little time to actually build out the number of beds that we need to meet the unmet demand.
All of our first-year students are required to live on campus, so they are always our first priority. We want to make sure people have a nice transition to Boone, nice transition to Appalachian, and research has shown that students that do live on campus that first year actually have better academic outcomes. They have better GPAs, they're more engaged on campus, they're more likely to retain and move on from one year to the next, from that first year to second year.
So, it's really important that first-year students live on campus, and Appalachian, for a long time, has not housed a large number of students on its campus. Probably the most in the past 30 years or so is a little less than 40% of our students have been able to live on campus. We have not been a residential campus where 80, 90% of our students live on campus in a very long time.
Dave Blanks: There are colleges like that?
Matt Dull: There are colleges like that, but that's not the model we have at Appalachian. And again, we're really trying to build additional beds as a part of this project, in order to accommodate more students that do want to live on campus, especially those that want to live on campus after their first year.
We also try to house a good number of transfer students as well, because this is their first ... a lot of times this is their first residential college experience. We have a good number of transfer students that come from community college but may be living at home, and this is an opportunity for them to be integrated into our campus, to be able to meet other people and really by part of this community.
Dave Blanks: Well, that's where I made my best friends. That's where I made my best college friends, was from the dorm. I still keep in touch with the people that were on first floor Hoey.
Matt Dull: Yeah, me too. I lived in Justice my first year, and Doughton Hall my second year. The people I met across the hall from me, or down the hall, are still people I keep up with quite a bit, or see as I visit different places around the state and spend time with them. So, yeah, that is a really important part, to me, of the college experience, at least one year in the residence halls. And we want to make sure all of our first-year students have that experience.
Then we also want to provide that experience for new incoming transfer students. Because all of our first-year students are required to live on campus, we have about 2,000 or so beds that are available after all of those students are placed. So we are currently prioritizing honor students that live in Residential Learning Communities and want to continue in those communities, that are University Housing employees. Students that are deeply engaged in on-campus residence life are prioritized.
Then we prioritize those who are rising second-year students, our sophomores, and trying to make sure as many of those sophomores that want to live on campus can live on campus as possible. In particular, we also look at students that are facing financial challenges, students that have high financial need, and making sure that they have a place on campus to live.
But these new residence halls will create around 400 new beds as a part of this project right now. Two hundred and thirty-eight of those beds will come on in the fall of 2020, so 238 new beds, thereabouts, maybe off by a bed or two here or there. But 238 of those beds will be finished up by the fall of 2020, so we will be able to house more students on campus next fall.
Dave Blanks: What would you say to students who are trying to live on campus but are unable to find housing on campus?
Matt Dull: Students who are not able to live on campus, we'd certainly encourage you to speak with our Office of Off-Campus Student Services. That group, headed up by Karla Rusch, is available. They're located in the Student Union on campus, you can also call the Dean of Students Office, they're a part of that Dean of Students Office. Karla would be happy to help you figure out what's available in town.
We also have a great website. If you haven't been to offcampus.appstate.edu, it is a great website that actually has an inventory of available apartments in the community.
Dave Blanks: What's that address again?
Matt Dull: It's offcampus.appstate.edu.
Dave Blanks: OK.
Matt Dull: From there, you can find an inventory of all of the off-campus properties owners have posted on there, so they could be larger properties or even smaller properties, or maybe single-family homes that may be for rent across the community. We really encourage our local owners in Boone to be posting their availability on that one site, so that way students who are looking for housing have one place to look.
We'd certainly encourage you to look there, or talk with Karla in the Office of Off-Campus Student Services, who's a great contact for not only trying to find housing, but also Karla is an attorney, and she also works with our Student Legal Clinic, and can help with things like navigating your first lease, what to be on the lookout for when finding that first apartment. Karla's a great resource when looking for that first off-campus housing.
Dave Blanks: Yeah, she's a great person, super knowledgeable.
Matt Dull: Super knowledgeable, been a part of this community for a long time, very helpful for students.
Dave Blanks: Karla's cool. We actually had, in one of our other podcasts, AppX, we had one about off-campus housing, where our intern in UComm, Liz, talked to Karla. It was super informative and cool, so check that out if you're here looking at podcasts.
This next question, Matt, kind of goes in with the first one: So will less students be able to be housed on campus during the renovations?
Matt Dull: Yeah, I get that question a lot.
Dave Blanks: That's got to be maybe the most popular question.
Matt Dull: It is probably the most popular question. I think when people look at construction, they assume that it means that you're going to have to have a loss of some kind, whether that's a loss of parking spaces, a loss of beds, a loss of usability of things. Part of the very first thing that we said to all of our developers that were bidding on the project is that we cannot have a loss of beds at any time during the project.
We will not lose any beds throughout this project. The number of beds that we have available this fall of 2019 is the same number we had available for the fall of 2018. By fall of 2020, we'll have a net new beds of 238, 240 beds in the fall of 2020. We will only be going up in the number of beds available for on-campus students, and will not be going down.
Dave Blanks: All right. This was a question on Facebook, “Anyone have any idea,” maybe Matt Dull, do you have an idea, “about the plan for the Panhellenic Hall? Where will Greek Panhellenic housing be?”
Matt Dull: We will continue to use Panhellenic Hall. Panhellenic Hall is in the housing master plan for the foreseeable future, and that will continue to be housing for our Panhellenic community. No big changes there; the plan is to keep that the same right now.
Dave Blanks: All right. So here's another comment: “You could have just left West alone instead of cutting down those trees and tearing apart Duck Pond Field, a decades-old landmark.” Could you speak to the trees, tearing apart Duck Pond Field? It's a landmark. Duck Pond was a landmark.
Matt Dull: Absolutely. It is. And as I mentioned before, my first year I lived in Justice Hall, and I was right across the street from Duck Pond and Trivette, and I had plenty of opportunities to enjoy being on Duck Pond Field for homecoming bonfire and tailgates. And we want to keep all of those things. We've got a short period of time, about two falls, where we're not going to have that space, that physical space.
Again, we are trying to create, as a part of this project, a large green space that will be in between buildings 100, 200 and 300 that will actually be maybe even a little bit larger than Duck Pond Field is right now, and it will be a little bit better space. It should have better drainage than Duck Pond Field has right now. If you've been out to Duck Pond Field during a rainy game day, it's been a pretty sloshy mess out there. There's not a lot of stormwater drainage through that.
Dave Blanks: It's true.
Matt Dull: So again, we're taking this opportunity, and it takes a couple of years of growing pains to have to go through not having that green space on campus to where, by, really, I think it's the fall of 2021, everything will be built out for building 100, 200, 300 in that large courtyard in there. Again, it'll have better lighting, it'll have better drainage, it will be landscaped with new trees in that area, so we are replacing the trees that had to come down. We also were able to move some of the trees.
Dave Blanks: Yeah, let's talk about the trees. You were telling me something about the trees that I didn't realize, is that a lot of them were nonnative maples.
Matt Dull: Yeah, a lot of the trees there were nonnative trees, and a lot of them were fairly diseased and were probably towards the end of their life. We'll be replacing those with other native species trees, that's part of that Green Built Alliance, Green Certification we're actually going through for this project, is it requires you to use native species of trees, and grasses and shrubs, drought-tolerant trees and shrubs, which is really important because we don't irrigate our plant.
As a way to save water on campus, we don't irrigate plants or grass, we don't have sprinkler heads and that kind of stuff on campus. So we will be doing that as part of this new project, is trying to put in native, drought-tolerant plants, shrubs, trees as a way to not only just save water, but also to have more native and noninvasive species as a part of the project.
It's an opportunity to start over a little bit, think differently. There were probably about 15 or 16 ginkgo trees that were actually throughout Stadium Lot and around the Duck Pond Field area. We were actually able to remove those, our campus Physical Plant removed those back in March, and were able to relocate those to different spots around campus.
Dave Blanks: And they did it Griswold style, by digging it up, right?
Matt Dull: By digging it up.
Dave Blanks: You know what I'm talking about?
Matt Dull: Yes, yes.
Dave Blanks: We're going to try to reincorporate those trees.
Matt Dull: Try to reincorporate those ginkgo trees on other areas of campus. The larger trees that were around Duck Pond were just not able to be saved, but we will again be adding more trees and other native species of plants around the new site. We want it to be an attractive place, and we want students to be able to have a beautiful green space to enjoy, and for alumni and others to come back and, during certain events throughout the year, to be able to enjoy that space as well.
Duck Pond really is a landmark, and we understand that. I think anyone that's gone to school here understands that places like Duck Pond Field, or Sanford Mall, these are almost like sacred spaces on campus. So we understand that it's tough to see changes on those sacred spaces, but we're trying to re-create that landmark again, really moving it just a few hundred feet closer towards the middle of Stadium Parking Lot, and really re-creating that.
And again, hoping to create a space and a place for people to continue the traditions that we've had on campus that we really love. We're looking at things like hammock stands, and incorporating that into this. We know students love to hammock on campus, so we're actually trying to not only replace current functions of Duck Pond, but also think about how do you make that space even more active with students every day. There are some things like hammock stands, and more trees and shrubs, and those kinds of things in that area.
Also things like building 200, on the back side of it, the side that's closest to the courtyard, the new Duck Pond Field, if you will, it actually has a natural kind of stage to it, it has a little bit higher elevation. So we can actually do speakers, or concerts, or pep rallies and things from the stage, if you will, on building 200 out towards the new Duck Pond Field. I think that's exciting too. It helps enhance that space, enhance that landmark, so that our traditions can continue on west campus.
Dave Blanks: All right, so here's just a statement here. “Coltrane and Gardner won't exist soon.” Can you speak to that?
Matt Dull: That's true. I think that's true; that's not really a myth.
Dave Blanks: It's no big secret, not a myth.
Matt Dull: Gardner and Coltrane, they have some of the smallest rooms, actually they have the smallest rooms we have on campus. It starts to get really costly to do things like renovating those spaces that have double occupancy bedrooms, a whole bunch of those bedrooms on a floor sharing a central core of bathrooms. There's only a handful of showers and toilets in that space, and that's not how we would design that residence hall space today.
Dave Blanks: Building practices have changed somewhat.
Matt Dull: Yeah, and there's no air conditioning in Gardner or Coltrane right now, and to put in a central heating and air and ventilation system means you're going to have to take up precious space in that building. Because those rooms are already so small, to go in and put in an HVAC, air conditioning unit, in each one of those rooms, it starts to even make those rooms smaller.
So Gardner and Coltrane, our long-term strategy was to take those buildings down and replace those beds with beds that students are really demanding, which are more suite-style beds. That's those two double occupancy bedrooms connected with a bathroom with a shower and toilet and a couple of sinks. That suite-style is a lot more popular with students right now, it's really what students are demanding. Especially as students move into a second or third year living on campus, that's really what they're looking for, not that traditional dorm-style housing.
Dave Blanks: I'm used to the traditional style. What dorms on campus have that now? We have suite-style dorms.
Matt Dull: Yeah, we have suite-style residence halls.
Dave Blanks: I shouldn't call them dorms, right? They're not called dorms anymore.
Matt Dull: They're not called dorms anymore.
Dave Blanks: Residence halls.
Matt Dull: Get with the times, Dave, that's right. You're living there, you're not just sleeping. Dormitories are where you sleep, but it's really where your life happens outside of the classroom.
Dave Blanks: You don't remain dormant there.
Matt Dull: That's right.
Dave Blanks: You thrive and grow there.
Matt Dull: Yeah, exactly. So, we do have a few suite-style places on campus right now. Newland Hall is one of those, Summit Hall is also one of our suite-styles. We have what we call a hotel-style, it's like a little hotel room, double occupancy bedroom with a bathroom connected to that. That is Mountaineer Hall, we've got around 460-some beds that are part of Mountaineer Hall. And then we have App Heights, which is our apartment building on campus. We really have four different styles: that traditional dorm style, suite-style, hotel-style and apartment-style. Appalachian Panhellenic Hall is also hotel-style as well.
Dave Blanks: It used to be a hotel.
Matt Dull: Because it used to be a hotel.
Dave Blanks: Makes sense. Well, OK, I understand that, Coltrane and Gardner won't exist soon. It is part of the master plan, which you can read on the Future site if you want more information on that.
All right, last one, Matt, for today: “There were a reduced number of spaces in Stadium Lot this past spring,” we're going to talk parking here, “will that continue throughout the rest of this project?” So when's the final date of this project again, when's the due date?
Matt Dull: Fall 2022.
Dave Blanks: All right, so will the reduced number of spaces continue throughout until fall 2022?
Matt Dull: This spring we had to do some reductions in spaces to be able to start building 200, so there were some spaces we had to take out of that Stadium Lot area for the spring semester. This fall, Parking and Transportation intentionally decided to not release new spring permits. Usually as the end of the fall semester happens, you have people that are graduating, you have people who are doing internships or study abroads for the spring semester, and they don't need that parking permit, so you have a lot of people that actually just do a fall-only parking permit, or turn in those full-year permits to get a refund and do the fall only.
This year, Parking and Transportation did not re-sell those permits for the spring semester, so that we could have spaces for as many people as possible in that Stadium Lot that had permits. We also provided some overflow spaces up in Greenwood Lot, as well as the old Broyhill Lot as overflow spaces for people that had permits in Stadium Lot for the spring semester. That parking lot is closed now. We've closed the parking lot off to do an expanded spot for lay down space, as well as to be the footprint for building 300.
This fall, the parking deck will open up with 477 spaces, when we will also sell permits for the Justice Lot and the Bowie and Eggers Lot, the lot behind Bowie and Eggers. We should be back up to our previous parking count by this fall when that parking deck opens in August. We had to make a small reduction in the number of parking spaces one time, and that was this spring.
From this point on, we'll continue to have approximately the same number of parking spaces from now through the end of the project. And then at the end of the project, once a few of those residence halls that are planned to come down, once they come down, those will become surface lots, and that adds about 250 new parking spaces to west campus for the fall of 2022.
So starting this fall, we'll be back up to full capacity, to where we were before the project started, and then that will continue the same for the fall of 2020, fall of 2021 and for the fall of 2022 there would be an additional 250 parking spaces on west campus. You see the new parking spaces at the end, where you see a lot of the new beds and the housing side at the beginning. They're kind of the inverse of each other.
Dave Blanks: Matt, any other common myths that you want to address in this one? I think we've covered quite a few of them, honestly.
Matt Dull: Yeah, I think these are a lot of the common questions we get, a lot of the common questions we get walking around campus and talking to people.
Dave Blanks: Yeah, I shouldn't call them myths. There are common concerns.
Matt Dull: Yeah, I don't know that they're necessarily myths, I think they're concerns or questions. And what I love about it, what I appreciate about people asking questions and having concerns, it's because people care about this place.
Dave Blanks: It demonstrates that.
Matt Dull: It really shows that. And I care about this place so much, I've been here right at 20 years or so. This is a place that's really important to me, and I think important to a lot of people. So, I love answering questions and talking with people about the project, and talking about the future of Appalachian, especially Appalachian's west campus.
We want this to be a positive for all of our students and alumni, and a positive for this place. So it's always exciting to hear people with questions and concerns because it really means that they love this place, and they want the best for this place and the best for future students. So, anytime that we can have conversations about questions people have, I just enjoy answering those and hearing what people's thoughts are.
Because sometimes those things actually change what we do. People may make comments about something safety-related, or something project-related, that makes you think, “Oh yeah, that's actually a great idea.” And we start implementing that and doing something differently on the project. So, keep the questions coming, they're super helpful. And certainly, if you have questions, I'm sure others have questions as well.
Dave Blanks: Absolutely. We welcome them on Facebook, where we share this podcast, so I look forward to hearing from you in the future, listeners. Matt Dull, thanks for spending time with me today, I really appreciate it.
Matt Dull: Absolutely. Thanks, Dave, appreciate it.
Dave Blanks: All right, cool.