Directional halls rededicated at ribbon cutting

Laura Hagan

The crown jewel of the revitalized central area of Western’s campus was dedicated in a ceremony Tuesday.

And the community plaza between Northeast and Southwest Halls lived up to its name. Students, workers and Western officials grabbed a pair of scissors, each cutting the ribbon on an area that just two years ago was lined with parallel-parked cars, broken sidewalks and burnt up landscaping.

Now a twisting sidewalk, new plant beds, state-of-the-art lighting and posh red brickwork invite pedestrians onto what used to be Virginia-Garrett Avenue.

“I hope the students are as excited as we are,” said Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life. “I’m pleased to see the hard work come to completion.”

The ceremony marked the rededication of the directional dorms and their official reopening.

The construction on the buildings and common area cost $16 million and took 15 months to complete. Together, Northeast and Southwest house 600 students.

Ben Ellis, residence hall director of Southwest, said the new dorms are a positive thing for Western. The renovations were based on students’ opinions.

“The needs of students now are different from many years ago,” Ellis said. “Like in the ’70s, you were lucky to have a TV and a microwave. Now, students have basically designed their own rooms.”

In a survey by the Student Life Foundation, a list of ideas was given.

Students wanted private bathrooms, their own thermostat, security, privacy, more electrical and data outlets, community and classroom space, courtyard and lobby areas, and fire protection systems.

In addition to what was requested, the two buildings also have kitchens, complete with ice machines, laundry rooms, and community rooms where students can study and socialize.

Some students have also brought in other pieces of furniture, like

couches and futons, to give their room a more “home-like” feel.

Louisville sophomore Elizabeth Gholami lives in Northeast. Her favorite part of the renovations is the private bathrooms.

“We don’t have to shower next to other people anymore,” she said.

It took determination to snag a room in the newly renovated dorms. Gholami camped out for six and a half hours.

She said most of her neighbors like the directional halls better than the dorms they lived in last year. She thinks many of the residents will return next fall.

President Gary Ransdell said the dorms, along with a remodeled Diddle Arena and Bates-Runner Hall, and the new Media and Technology Hall will improve the quality of life at Western and boost enrollment.

About 100 people were in attendance at the ceremony, including Mary Park Meador, the first residence hall director of what used to be West Hall. She spent 12 years at West when it was first built and was amazed by the changes.

“I can’t believe how beautiful this is,” she said. “A renovation was needed for some time.”

Reach Laura Hagan at [email protected]