Summer construction continues on campus at WKU

Part of the sidewalk leading up to the Fine Arts Center walkway near Potter Hall is being replaced due to sections of failed underground steam piping and the site demolition required to access the piping.

Nicole Ziege

Many construction projects are taking place at WKU this summer before students return in the fall, including the construction of a new residence hall and medical school in Bowling Green and multiple renovation projects on campus.

The newest residence hall on campus, Hilltopper Hall, is nearing completion. Located next to the Kentucky Museum, Hilltopper Hall is scheduled to officially open in August. Construction on the L-shaped building began in fall 2016 and its estimated project cost was $40.9 million.

The new hall includes 400 beds, a dining hall open to the public and a game lounge. The rooms will be suite-style with a private bathroom. Each occupant will have a dresser, bed and desk. Each floor will include an enclosed study room, a common room and a kitchen area. There will be several patios outside the building, as well as new sidewalk connections, as previously reported by the Herald.

Hilltopper Hall will be open year-round and will be the university’s most expensive on-campus residence hall. The cost for living in a double-occupancy room will be $2,807, compared to $2,245, which is the lowest price for residence halls on campus. The hall’s construction is part of WKU’s Housing and Residence Life’s 10-year housing master plan.

Brian Kuster, executive director for the Student Life Foundation, said that the hall’s landscaping is currently being worked on and the furniture is being installed.

The new UK College of Medicine Bowling Green campus will open on the date of its orientation, July 30. The new campus is a four-year, regional campus medical school located in the Medical Center at Bowling Green. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new building took place on June 7, 2017, and construction was set to last for 11 months.

The first official white coat ceremony for the school will take place at Van Meter Hall on Aug. 3 and classes will start on Aug. 6. The building will be completed in mid-August, said Don Brown, director of medical education at the Medical Center.

Although Brown could not yet provide the number of WKU students attending the medical school, he said about 30 students have been accepted for the first year and about 120 students will be accepted into the school for the first four years. He said this is smaller than the number of students at the University of Kentucky’s Lexington campus, which accepts about 136 students per year.

“We’re hoping for a family-type atmosphere for the students with their peers and their professors,” Brown said.

The campus was a collaboration between WKU, University of Kentucky, who has a developed medical school, Morehead State University and regional health care providers in Bowling Green, Ashland and Morehead, as previously reported by the Herald.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Brown said that one of the benefits of the new campus is the ability to recruit WKU and Gatton Academy students and immediately place them in a position to work in a professional environment while getting assistance on interviews and test preparations, as previously reported by the Herald.

“What started out as a dream of few has become a dream of many,” Brown said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

A significant renovation project at WKU is the Thompson Complex Center Wing. Funding for the renovation totaled around $48 million and came from money allocated by the state. The $48 million state funding paid for renovations and upgrades for the Thompson Complex Center Wing and the construction of the new Ogden College Hall, which opened on Jan. 22 and replaced the Thompson Complex North Wing.

The Thompson Complex Center Wing, which was built in 1967, will receive a new roof, new HVAC equipment, new lighting and new windows in the building. Russell said that the fourth floor is being 100 percent renovated.

The project started during winter break, around January 2018, when all faculty and staff were moved out of the building. Russell said that the renovations to Thompson Complex Center Wing are scheduled for completion in December 2018.

“It’s been a very successful project,” Russell said.

Students will see changes to the WKU Store by the start of the fall semester. Specific changes include relocations for the “Savvy Squirrel” technology section and the store’s fitting rooms.

The “Savvy Squirrel” technology section, previously located in the middle of the store, will be moved to the back of the store next to the U.S. Bank counter. The store’s fitting rooms will be moved from the back of the store to an area near the front apparel section.

Improved ceiling and lighting changes have already been put in place. In the front two-thirds of the store, the floor will be carpeted and the entire store will be repainted. The projected cost for the renovations will be about $300,000, said Brad Wheeler, assistant vice president of business services at WKU.

“We want the store to be inviting for students and alumni,” Wheeler said. “I think [the renovations] will meet our needs for the next five to 10 years.”

Many areas of WKU’s campus are seeing renovations this summer and are planned to be completed before the fall semester.

Raymond Cravens Library is being renovated this summer to replace the building’s “aging” curtain wall windows. It is one of several exterior renovation projects that has been made to the building in the past several years in order to “maintain a safe exterior envelope,” said Russell in an email.

“The old window system was failing and allowing too much water penetration into the interior space,” Russell said in the email. “We had been adding funds to a project to cover the expense of the last several years.”

Because of construction in Raymond-Cravens Library, WKU Libraries announced that the ADA entrance to Helm-Cravens Library on the fourth floor will be closed “indefinitely.” This was announced in a campus-wide email to all faculty and staff and on the WKU Libraries’ Twitter on July 10.

Grise Hall will receive two new air handling units to provide air conditioning and heating to the building. Russell said that the building has four units in total and one of them was replaced a few years ago. He said that the fourth unit will be replaced “when funds become available.”

Russell said in an email that the project cost is about $500,000. He said the project was important because adding the new units will improve indoor air quality for the building.

“This is a very good example of equipment that has far exceeded its useful life, and the replacement of that equipment has been deferred for many years due to the fact that WKU has a very good maintenance team that services and repairs or equipment daily,” Russell said in the email.

Tate Page Hall’s outside patio area is being renovated this summer. Russell said that it is the first of several areas of the building to be renovated.

“Tate Page Hall is another project that evolves exterior improvements that the university has been phasing in over the last few summer project periods,” Russell said in the email.

Part of the sidewalk leading up to the Fine Arts Center walkway near Potter Hall is being replaced due to sections of failed underground steam piping and the site demolition required to access the piping.

“Each year, we evaluate the condition of our walkways around campus,” Russell said in his email. “WKU sidewalks, as a whole, are currently in pretty good condition but some areas were in need of being replaced or changed to address other site conditions to help us maintain clean safe walkways.”

Russell said renovations and maintenance projects, like the WKU Store, Raymond-Cravens Library, Grise Hall, Tate Page Hall and the Fine Arts Center, are funded by a yearly financial budget of about $1.4 million provided by WKU.

“We are very fortunate to have these source of funds to work on projects that helps us keep our facilities in the best condition we can for everyone,” Russell said in his email.

Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow Nicole Ziege on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.