Administrators, students, and board members gathered at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) Thursday afternoon to break ground on an $18 million, 234-bed residence hall on the eastern side of the campus.
The new facilities are meant to provide students with an “apartment option” as there are none nearby the campus.
The new dormitories are expected to be completed by August 2017. They will feature single bedrooms with kitchens and dining spaces, laundry machines on each floor, free Wi-Fi, study lounges, and more. This is the first major project for the campus since the Main Building reopened in 2010 after a fire in 2008. It’s the first new building since the Sueltenfuss Library opened in 2000.
OLLU President Diane Melby told the group Thursday to ignore the pile of dirt currently in place of the building and imagine the good that it will do once it is transformed into the dorms.
“I want to you to visualize young people walking in and walking down hallways on the first day of what’s going to be a remarkable transformation of their lives,” she said. “It’s not about a building. It is about what will happen to the lives of the people who walk through those hallways and sleep in those beds.”
The new residences, she added, will allow more students to start volunteering and make a difference in the surrounding community at a quicker pace.
Roy Terracina, OLLU board of trustees chairman, said that the construction of the dorm is unique in that it will be built quickly and in a relatively cheap fashion.
“We financed (the construction) in such a way that no tuition dollars are being used,” he said.
Vice President of Student Life and Athletic Director Jack Hank said that the style of the dorms were taken from student feedback in the hopes that it would attract more students to live there.
“This is going to be a place that will increase our capacity more than 30% on campus,” Hank said. “We will have over 800 beds available for our student body. This means more activities, more energy, and more fun on campus.”
He added that this will improve students ability to perform academically as well.
After the groundbreaking, Melby told the Rivard Report that OLLU is back on the rise.
“There’s so many good things happening at OLLU from curriculum development, increases in our graduate population, to so much in terms of residential life,” she said. “We’re definitely on the move.”
In a phone interview, Westside Development Corporation President and CEO Leonard Rodriguez told the Rivard Report that the new facilities also will be celebrated by the surrounding community.
“When it comes to how this impacts Westside revitalization, education tied with construction is a good thing,” Rodriguez said. “All of the Westside will be excited to see the hall go up. It accentuates the improvements at Elmendorf Lake Park.
“It’ll have a really nice impact and will hopefully be a benchmark for future development.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the name of the new residence hall was “Lake Park.” In fact, the residence hall has yet to be named.