Demolition begins on Bemis Lawrence

Crews have removed windows from Bemis Lawrence hall (rear) and are expected to complete demolition during fall 2019. Barnes Campbell hall (front) will remain standing during construction of the First Year Village and be demolish in fall 2021.

Lily Burris

The Student Life Foundation is moving forward on the First Year Village by demolishing Bemis Lawrence Hall, according to a press release today.

Bemis Lawrence will come down during the first week of August, and portions of the Gated Regents Lot and the Pearce Ford Tower Lot are closed for the construction during the summer. Both lots will be closed entirely during the school year. One of the things that will be done to help with the loss of parking spaces is the creation of a new commuter lot on Park Street. The University Boulevard Lot with become residence parking.

“Any time we’re doing construction on campus, a busy campus, at first it will be an inconvenience,” said Bryan Russell, chief facilities officer.

The First Year Village is being funded by the Student Life Foundation, which is in charge of the residence halls at WKU. All fees that students pay for on-campus housing are deposited through the Student Life Foundation. It will cost $48 million to create the two buildings that comprise the First Year Village, which will house about 635 students. The buildings will include pod-style living for groups of about 25 students with shared amenities like bathrooms and common spaces. The goal is to connect students with similar interests in all types of spaces, said Mike Reagle, assistant vice president for student engagement and executive director of housing and dining.

“It is important to connect the time spent in the classroom with the 150 hours students spend outside of the classroom to ensure they take full advantage of the WKU experience,” Reagle said in the press release.

The students living in these buildings will participate in living learning communities, which group students by their academic programs or other needs and interests. Spaces such as music practice rooms and recording studios will also be available for students along with a new green space in what is currently the Pearce Ford Lot.

Students in the First Year Village will have mentors to help them transition from their first year of college to their second year, according to the press release.

Work on the hall began in June, and fences went up last week. Most windows have already been removed from the building to be reused or recycled. Demolition of Bemis Lawrence is scheduled to begin the first week of August, according to the press release. Demolition will occur floor by floor to allow all materials to be taken to the proper locations, which is expected to take around 90 days. 

Students will move into the First Year Village for the fall 2021 semester.

“The First Year Village fits well into the University’s Strategic Plan by providing the kinds of experience that will make our students successful,” Reagle said in the press release.

Students will be living in Barnes Campbell Hall for the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years before it is demolished in the fall of 2021. The footprint of Barnes Campbell is not in the way of the First Year Village. Both halls have been open since 1966.

News reporter Lily Burris can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @lily_burris.