Hilltop construction set for completion at end of summer


Alexandria Anderson

The WKU hilltop has been under renovation since May 2022 to reduce traffic flow and make a more pedestrian friendly space. The project is set to complete before the start of the fall 2023 semester.

Alexandria Anderson, Editor-in-Chief

Students returning to campus should expect to see expanses of green space, a small amphitheater and numerous new walkways that decorate the top of the hill.

The hilltop area, where Garrett Conference Center and a vehicular Colonnade Drive used to be, was renovated in order to reduce traffic flow and make the area more pedestrian friendly. The project removed all through traffic between College Heights Boulevard and State Street and made Colonnade Drive a pedestrian walkway.

This project, which began construction in May 2022, is a part of WKU’s Campus Master Plan for 2021-2031, which is to “envision future construction projects that are thoughtful and student-focused,” according to the WKU website.

Bryan Russell, WKU chief facilities officer, explained that reducing vehicular traffic and making the area more enjoyable for students were key reasons for the project, as well as returning to the historic vision of campus.

“We’re pushing traffic to an outside perimeter, and we’re trying to make it safer and more enjoyable for our students,” Russell said. 

Throughout the 2022-2023 academic year, pedestrian and vehicular pathways on the hilltop were blocked off to allow for construction. 

“I’m glad it’s coming to an end because all this construction has made getting around pretty difficult,” Nat Duncan, a sophomore studio arts major, said. “But I’m excited to see how this is used when it’s all done.”

During the recent spring commencement, a new brick walkway and much of the hilltop green space opened up, Russell said. Construction of a plaza beside the Chandler Memorial Chapel on campus also began after commencement. The full hilltop renovation will be completed at the end of this summer.

“We’ve made a lot of construction free walkways and improvements, and a lot of landscaping, a lot of seating areas, a lot of really beautiful rock walls for people to enjoy,” Russell said. “We’re finishing up this summer, and we’ll do a roundabout to part of the connection that gets to the gated hilltop lot.”

The main construction projects left to complete for the Hilltop renovation are a gazebo overlook and a fountain located at the center of the roundabout.

The WKU hilltop has been under renovation since May 2022 to reduce traffic flow and make a more pedestrian friendly space. The project is set to complete before the start of the fall 2023 semester. (Alexandria Anderson)

After the completion of the Hilltop project, more construction should be expected at the top of the hill. Russell said $30 million has been designated to renovate Cherry Hall, and the investigative work for the renovation has been commissioned.

“Cherry Hall is probably our most utilized academic building that’s on campus, because every student goes through Cherry Hall, and it is in dire need of major repairs,” Russell said.

When construction on Cherry Hall begins, Russell said those classes will need to be held in other facilities, although strict planning decisions for this project have not been made. 

He suggested the use of Grise Hall as a “swing space” once the new business college building opens in fall 2025. Construction of the business building will start this summer on July 1.

Measures to make accessible improvements to campus are also in progress. Russell said some of these improvements include the removal of barriers and addition of an accessible walkway in front of Cherry Hall. The university has also designated $2 million to investigate the Gordon Wilson Hall facility in order to make restroom improvements and implement an elevator.

Russell said the university will continue to make plans for further construction projects and other campus improvements. 

“We have hundreds of projects that happen every summer, from road improvements, parking lot improvements to safety improvements,” Russell said. “They’re constructing the soccer and softball facility right now. We’re working on plans for adding a press box, improvements in baseball, eSports, band and forensics. More information is coming about that, but we are actually working on those plans as well.”

Editor-in-chief Alexandria Anderson can be reached at [email protected].