Washington University reveals plans for future of South 40

Puneet Kollipara

Shedding light on plans for a new Wohl Center and the construction of new dorms, Washington University has released more information about its construction plans for the future of the South 40.

Plans for the South 40 will occur in two phases. This summer, before Phase I, Umrath House and the Washington University Police Station will be demolished to make way for a new modern dorm. The police department will move into space currently occupied by the Office of Residential Life.

Phase I will begin this fall with the construction of a new dorm to replace Umrath House and the beginning of the construction of a new Wohl Center.

Phase II, which begins in the summer of 2009, will feature the destruction of traditional freshman dorm Rubelmann, the destruction of the old Wohl Center and the completion of the new Wohl Center.

In Dec. 2007, Justin Carroll, dean of students and associate vice chancellor for students, announced at the annual tuition forum that the new Wohl Center would be located just south of Shepley Drive and in the grass area to the north of the current one.

The first floor of the building will contain new eateries, while the upper floors, like the Village House, will function as a dorm. The housing will primarily house upperclassmen in suite-style rooms.

The construction of a dorm in the new Wohl Center will cause the South 40 to exceed 3,000 beds. According to Carroll, because the Clayton Fire Department limits the South 40 to 3,000 beds, the University will need to demolish one or more of the older dorms without replacing them.

Candidates for permanent destruction, according to Carroll, include the sophomore suite dorms of JKL Residential College-Dauten, Shanedling and Rutledge halls-and those of HIGE-Hitzeman, Hurd and Myers halls.

The old Wohl Center will remain until the summer of 2009, when it is slated to be demolished to allow for the completion of the new building.

According to Carroll, the reasons for the construction of a new Wohl Center are manifold, but one reason in particular stands out.

“The challenge for us is that it was built at a time and designed for a lifestyle that’s much different than today’s students,” said Carroll.

According to Carroll, the eateries in the current Wohl Center, which was built in April 1960, were designed to cater to the students’ lifestyles in that era. Most students would eat three meals a day in the Wohl Center’s dining rooms.

Students would even come back to the South 40 for lunch because daily class schedules were different than they are today.

Today, Carroll said, most students do not eat all their meals in the Wohl Center and few eat lunch there, resulting in a a significant amount of square footage, especially on the second floor, being underutilized most of the day.

Other reasons for the construction of a new Wohl Center include the lack of handicap accessibility in the current one and the current building’s inability to meet many of today’s modern fire safety standards.

The new Wohl Center will also feature a new and improved fitness center.

The reconstructed Ruby-Umrath Residential College will likely be joined in an ‘L’ shape like Liggett-Koenig Residential College. Carroll said that the new Ruby-Umrath would not necessarily have the same aesthetic design as Liggett-Koenig.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do.is to give each [building] a little bit of a personality and something that’s architecturally distinctive so they don’t all look cookie-cutter,” said Carroll.

The destruction of Umrath House will reduce the number of beds on the South 40 by about 150 until the new Wohl Center and new Umrath House are complete. However, Carroll said that the completion of the new Village East apartments, located on the North Side, will make up for this temporary reduction by adding 152 beds, though these beds will not be on the South 40.

Other new dorms on the South 40 will likely have suites with similar layouts to the suites in Liggett, Koenig, Lien and Gregg houses.

According to Carroll, the construction represents an ambitious project that is about more than simply updating buildings.

“In the end what’s most important is about the community itself and the people,” said Carroll.

The University is catering directly to the interests of students. Several students, especially in the School of Architecture, have provided input regarding the design, layout and environmental sustainability of the new buildings.

“I thought the plans were good,” said freshman Daniel Tish, one of seven architecture students who recently met with Carroll and one of the architects to provide their input on the new building plans. “They’re definitely working with us. They’ve already incorporated some of our concerns.”

The new plans for the South 40 will place emphasis on adding grass areas, being more environmentally efficient and adding additional amenities to new dorms, such as music practice rooms.

This summer, all summer school, summer research and intern housing is being moved to the Millbrook apartments in order to accomodate the start of construction.

To improve the environmental soundness of buildings on campus, all new buildings on the South 40 will have some degree of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Carroll said that architectural plans for the new buildings have not yet been finalized, and that more changes and additions are possible in the coming weeks.

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