UK plans $30 million dorm; long-term plan calls for 9,000 new beds

9,000 beds is goal; School wants more students Living on campus

lblackford@herald-leader.comOctober 26, 2011 

New University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto announced a far-reaching plan Tuesday to remake and expand student housing, starting with a high-tech, $30 million residence hall that would open in 2013.

The project is the first of several during the next decade that eventually would create a campus of modern residence halls with 9,000 beds, said Capilouto, who took office 31/2 months ago. The new dorms eventually would replace most of the 5,184 beds on campus now, of which only 684 are in buildings considered modern.

"I'm excited and confident we can achieve these ambitious goals I have presented today," Capilouto told the Board of Trustees.

On Wednesday, a request for proposal will go out to private developers who could help UK finance and build a 600-bed dorm that would go up on the sports field next to Haggin Hall and near the William T. Young Library. It would serve students in an expanded UK Honors program, and others.

It's not clear how the project would be financed. The university is seeking proposals from private developers, but the state put aside $52 million in the last two-year budget for dorm renovations that could be used for the project.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to approve final plans for the dorm by December. The plans were fast-tracked after a board retreat three weeks ago, when new facilities were identified as an urgent need on campus.

New facilities are needed to upgrade UK's aging student buildings; they also fulfill another priority, improving the undergraduate experience.

"You've stuck to the game plan that came out of our retreat," board chairman Britt Brockman told Capilouto. "It's to be commended what we're seeing so far."

There is enough space on UK's campus to accommodate new housing, Capilouto said. For example, he showed a map with potential new facilities in place of the current Kirwan-Blanding dorm complex, the Cooperstown graduate school complex and the overflow parking lot near Good Samaritan Hospital across Limestone.

The building campaign would include an aggressive sequencing of tearing down old dorms to build new ones. The four dorms built under former President Lee T. Todd Jr. would be kept, along with Keeneland, which has been retrofitted, and Patterson, a historical dorm that is popular with students, said spokesman Jay Blanton.

So over a 10-year period, dorms with about 4,200 beds would be torn down and replaced, while 4,000 new beds would be added.

The expansion would allow UK to realize a long-term goal of getting more freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. Currently, 88 percent of freshmen live at UK their first year, but only 24 percent of all underclassmen live there.

"We want to allow more freshmen and sophomores to live on campus because the first two years are critical in succeeding in better retention and graduation," Blanton said. "Studies show that living on campus is a critical component of that."

Capilouto said further conversations were needed to identify more funding sources, such as enhanced philanthropy to the university.

He estimated that a final price tag for necessary dorms, research buildings and student support facilities could be $400 million to $500 million. That's less than the $1 billion a recent report said would be required to upgrade the entire UK campus, much of which is aging.

After Capilouto finished his presentation, board members gave him a round of applause.

"I think to come this far in three weeks and a half is amazing," said trustee James Stuckert.

"He has met my expectations, but those expectations were very high," Brockman said after the meeting.

In other business:

■ The board voted to name the North Hall dorm after David Roselle, the ninth president of UK. Roselle was the only president besides Todd who did not have a building named after him. Roselle served as president from 1987 to 1989. He then went to the University of Delaware, where he served as president until his retirement in 2007.

■ Trustee Irina Voro requested that the board hire its own legal counsel "in view of attempts to impose Big Brother controls, the likes of which I haven't seen since the time of the Soviet Union," she said. She also requested that the board establish an ethics and good governance committee that would lead to a more trusting relationship among board members.

Voro has tussled with Brockman and top administrators since she requested information on the number and type of administrators at UK. Brockman has asked that all information requests by board members go through him to improve efficiency. Voro contends that she has never received the exact information she wanted.

The board did not discuss or vote on Voro's request.

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