Hillcrest, Chi Omega house to be demolished next semester

Jackson French

Early next semester, Hillcrest Apartments and the Chi Omega sorority house, both on Normal Street, will be no more.

Both buildings are being demolished to make room for a building that will house the Honors College and International Center upon its completion.

Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design, and Construction, said WKU purchased and currently owns both buildings.

“Both properties that are there are still being utilized, which was part of the original contractual agreement between the owners and WKU,” he said.

Russell said Chi Omega is relocating to a house on Chestnut Street.

“The university worked with their organization and presented many options along the course of the last couple of years to find a property that met their needs and then met our needs as well, so it was a win-win for both organizations,” he said.

The university purchased the property on which Hillcrest Apartments currently occupies for $950,000 over the summer, the appraised value excluding closing costs. An agreement between the property owner and the university was made after the regents adopted a resolution authorizing the exercise of eminent domain on April 26.

Russell said construction on the new building is scheduled to begin in early February, after the house and the apartment complex are demolished.

India graduate student Suresh Lokre, who lives in Hillcrest Apartments, said he doesn’t know where he’s going to move when everyone is forced to leave during the last week of December.

“I’m still looking for a place, but I haven’t got any,” he said.

Lokre said he needs to find a new place close to campus because he doesn’t have a car.

“We international students, you know, we try to look for the places within the campus so that we don’t have to travel longer distances,” he said.

Nashville senior and Hillcrest resident Cori Haber said she is opposed to the building being torn down.

“I disagree with Western and taking over just because they think it’s eminent domain,” she said. “I think preserving it would be better just because it’s been here for so long and been part of Western’s campus for so long.”

Craig Cobane, executive director of the Honors College, said he expects the building to be constructed on top of the gravel parking lot, formerly home to the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house, between Hillcrest Apartments and the Chi Omega house.

He said the new facilities will be comprised of one building and some green space, adding that there will be little parking space near the new building.

Cobane said there is a misconception that the building will only serve as an honors facility.

“I think one of the misnomers is that this is an honors building,” he said. “I believe square footage-wise, barely a third of the building is going to be used for honors units.”

He said the new building will primarily be “a place for international students.”

“Currently, the generic name for it is the Honors College and International Center, and it will house almost all the international programs,” he said.

Cobane said these programs include Navitas, English as a Second Language International, Study Abroad, Global Learning, and the Kentucky Institute for International Studies.

He said the international student office will also be located in the new building to assist international students with whatever problems they may have.

“These international students, they’re coming from all over the world and they often like to be able to connect with people who are sharing the same kinds of experiences, so it gives them sort of a place on campus,” Cobane said.

He said the building will also include a café he hopes will serve a variety of international foods.

Cobane said he hopes the Honors College and International Center will help domestic students connect with students from other countries. He said he wants the building to foster international friendships and inspire students to study abroad.

“I want every student who walks into that building to see that the primary idea is that this building is a gateway to the world,” he said.