Tri-Towers renovations under way, Wright Hall to finish next month

Construction workers discuss plans in the new sky lounge on the 10th floor of Wright Hall Monday, July 22, 2013. Photo by Yolandi Li.

Cindy Deng

Renovations to Wright Hall are on target to be completed by Aug. 9, and work on Koonce and Leebrick halls is expected to begin Summer 2014.

University officials in the Department of Residence Services noticed that Wright and Koonce halls did not have enough common space for students to gather. Jill Church, director of Residence Services, said students living in Wright Hall during the 2013-14 school year will have a new sky lounge on the tenth floor, which replaces 13 dorm rooms.

“It’s exciting to be able to invest in the housing we have currently,” Church said. “A lot of places will just build something new and for us, we’re able to take an existing building that students love and identify with.”

Joseph Graham, associate director in the Office of University Architect, said the sky lounge will have panoramic views of campus and plenty of space for students to socialize and build a community with fellow residents. He said it will include bathrooms, new furniture, a kitchen and TV.

“The goal was to lower the density of the buildings a little bit, making it more community oriented,” Graham said.

Church said the removal of 13 dorm rooms wasn’t a significant number in terms of student housing numbers. She said the sky lounge is going to create a space for students to feel more comfortable and happy with where they’re living.

“With a housing system of 6,228 beds, the loss of 13 rooms to create an attractive gathering space is something we’re willing to do,” Church said. “It was a great trade off for us.”

Several mechanical upgrades and cosmetic changes were also made throughout Wright Hall. Updates include a new heating and cooling system, elevators, flooring, furniture, paint and windows. In addition, all dorm rooms are now structured for easy customization with free-standing furniture, Graham said.

“They used to be able to loft your desk on the dresser and on the desk, but now you can do it on the wardrobe,” Graham said. “There’s a little bar on the back that allows you clip your bed on the wardrobe. The neat thing I really like about that is that the wardrobe sticks above the upper bunk. It gives you almost like a night table, so you have a place for your alarm clock and things like that.”

The estimated cost of the Tri-Towers renovations is about $38 million and will save the university about $40,000 annually per building, said Scott Centea, associate mechanical engineer in the Office of the University Architect. Church said the project is covered by a $30 million bond and funding from other sources. With new furnishings, she said student cost for housing in Wright Hall is about $50 more, which makes it $2,990 per semester.

“The reason is because of the carpet and the furniture,” Church said. “We’re not saying it’s because it’s brand new and we’re giving you a sky lounge, so we’re charging more. It’s stating because we have these additional amenities, so we’re going to price it a little bit higher.”

Church said Wright Hall needed the most attention, so the same renovations to Koonce and Leebrick Hall are saved for Summer 2014. Leebrick Hall will not have a sky lounge. Graham, who was involved in the improvement of bathrooms in Tri-Towers in early 2000, said doing the renovations has been rewarding.

“We’re trying to make these buildings look, operate and function for the next 20 years,” Graham said. “It’s been a few years since we’ve been back in these buildings and it’s nice to see the finale of it.”

Contact Cindy Deng at [email protected].