Center for Student Life at Core of Ambitious Campus Revitalization Plan

Entranceway photo

A proposed Center for Student Life at Eastern Kentucky University is aimed at transforming the student experience by revitalizing the core of the Richmond campus.

University officials believe that a combination of renovations and new facilities in close proximity in the historic center of campus, holistically serving EKU students, will make the campus a more compelling and welcoming place, result in greater and more meaningful interactions and engage students more in the life of the University, even on weekends.

The Center, or CSL, is the signature element of a broad and ambitious campus revitalization plan, which can now be tracked at ekubuilds.eku.edu, also accessible from the University’s home page (www.eku.edu). The EKU Builds site includes a question-and-answer section about a recently approved student fee (officially ratified by the Student Senate on March 17 after a 24-5 vote two weeks earlier) and a Twitter feed that monitors the progress of numerous campus projects, and includes photographs and renderings.

The $150-per-semester student fee, which will remain in place for the next 20 years, will fund two cornerstones of the CSL: a much larger recreation center and a renovated student union. The CSL will also encompass other facilities and landscaping features to be built or renovated in the heart of the Richmond campus that EKU President Michael Benson said would “make EKU the number one college choice for prospective students in our region and the envy of our peers nationwide.”

As they participate in a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the campus landscape and transform the “Eastern Experience,” students will play an active role in deciding the features of both the recreation center and renovated student union. Initial design work and project cost estimates for the CSL are expected to be completed by October. EKU officials anticipate the final agency bond amount will be submitted to the CPE and Finance Cabinet this December for inclusion in the 2016 budget request and will then seek General Assembly approval next year to begin the project.

Other components of the Center for Student Life, to be funded by a combination of public-private partnerships, private funds and the University, are expected to include:

·         new residence halls

·         a new dining-only facility

·         a multi-level parking garage

·         the Noel Reading Porch on the south side of Crabbe Library and an adjacent pedestrian plaza between the Library and the Weaver Building

·         Carloftis Garden (at the former site of the Martin Hall tennis courts)

·         a Lancaster Avenue pedestrian gateway at the site of the now-demolished Combs residence hall.

Changes on the Richmond campus are hardly limited to the CSL. Many other ongoing and planned projects are addressing facilities in need of renovation and enhancing the curb appeal of Eastern. Major projects not associated with the Center include:

·         the now-under-construction second phase of the New Science Building, which will house biology and geoscience programs. 

·         the construction of a multi-purpose facility, replacing the east-side grandstands at Roy Kidd Stadium, to house classrooms and small conference rooms, a nutrition and dietetics center, training facilities, a new football locker room, offices for football coaches, and a café.

·         a 12,700-square-foot addition to the Ashland Building, completion of which is expected by Fall 2015.

·         a renovated space for the Construction Management program in the Ault Building.

·         continuing upgrades for Hummel Planetarium.

·         a federally-funded project to construct a new sidewalk along the east side of Lancaster Road on the south side of campus.

·         and, several hours southeast of Richmond, the construction of a research facility and “bunk house” at Lilley Cornett Woods, a  University-owned old-growth forest near the Kentucky-Virginia border. The National Science Foundation awarded EKU a $300,000 grant for the research facility; the University is funding the “bunk house.”

Many other improvement projects have been completed in recent months. The top capital construction priority for the University remains a new facility to house the College of Education and Model Laboratory School, to be located at the corner of Lancaster Avenue and the Eastern By-Pass.

“These improvements all underscore the fact that we are forging ahead at EKU,” Benson said at his August 2014 Convocation. “A sense of ‘place’ and making our campus even more beautiful and welcoming is a significant part of the educational enterprise. The way we present ourselves says a great deal about how we feel toward this institution and our daily work as stewards of the University.”

The theme for Benson’s inauguration two months later, “Make No Little Plans,” has become a mantra for his administration and for the University.

Published on March 18, 2015

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