Colonial Court to remain as green space

Nick Bratcher

As apartments were torn down on the little piece of land on Normal Drive, residents took comfort in knowing a new international center would rise up to take their place.

But when WKU completed its master plan for construction through 2022 this summer, that little patch of land called Colonial Court, whose back area is used to house visiting scholars, remained green space.

Barbara Burch, current provost emeritus and the vice president for Academic Affairs at WKU when Colonial Court was purchased, said buying the property was ultimately a mistake.

“Basically, we purchased the building and paid for tearing it down and it didn’t happen,” she said. “The fact is that we would not have used money to purchase the front property if we had any idea that we were not going to be able to build on it.”

Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction, said WKU decided to combine the international center with four other programs moving into a $22 million building on Normal Street.

“We had planned to build an international building, but what they decided to do was slow down,” he said. “We’re out of land, so we don’t need to be building a lot of little buildings.”

Instead, WKU hopes to build a 7,500 square-foot facility to house not only the international center, but also the Honors College, Office of Scholar Development, Office of Undergraduate Research, Confucius Institute, Navitas and Chinese Flagship Program.

Burch said the international department has certainly outgrown its current housing.

“I’m happy to know internationals is going to get a home somewhere because they desperately need one,” she said. “At the same time, I’m disappointed it didn’t happen because it would have created a sense of identity and visibility for the program in a very prominent way on the campus.”

Burch said funding for the project was in place with money from the Division of Extended Learning and Outreach when she stepped down as vice president of academic affairs.

“A year ago, all of that construction was paid for,” she said. “With the deans, we were able to understand how to use some of the revenue money from DELO and be able to pay for that building without taking it from any of the departments and colleges.”

But President Gary Ransdell said that money has since been put on hold.

“There just wasn’t enough,” he said in reference to the DELO revenue. “They’re still there — some used to renovate six little houses for visiting scholars, the larger building, those seven structures, and the rest put on hold.”

Ransdell said the international building project outgrew WKU’s resources and that the alternate Honors/international building project will need to receive funding before it moves forward as well.

“We still intend to build a home for the Honors College and an international center on Normal in that vicinity, but we have to identify the funding source in order to proceed,” he said. “We’re not going to build anything for which we don’t have a clear and dependable financing plan.”

Akash Patel, a graduate student from Surat, India, lived in one of the apartments at Colonial Court before WKU tore them down.

He said the bigger plan for the space brought him some small comfort when he moved out of his apartment.

“When they informed us we had to leave, we were pretty disappointed,” Patel said. “I was attached to it.”