University opens its first new residence hall in 33 years

When Riverbend Commons officially opened its doors Thursday, it became the first residence hall added to campus in nearly 33 years.

Although the construction of privately-owned apartment complexes and expansion of older residence halls have helped accommodate the swelling number of incoming students, Riverbend Commons is the first structure designed to address both the University’s housing shortage and the demands of today’s college students.

“This building was built by students,” said hall director Chad Horsley, who spent three years as Pioneer Hall’s director before moving to Riverbend Commons this year.

A focus group composed primarily of students and University housing officials was consulted before building plans were finalized.

The group played an integral part in the design process, said Mannix Clark, director of Housing and Residential Life.

Some of the most popular requests — bigger rooms, private baths and in-room cooking facilities — are evident in the new building.

Each room comes equipped with a microwave, stovetop burners, a refrigerator and a private bathroom (shared by no more than two people).

Those are in addition to the more standard amenities such as carpeted floors, air conditioning, ethernet and cable television access.

Some rooms even include a washer and dryer — no quarters required.

“I love to cook, and I wanted to have my own kitchen,” said Verena Konrad, a marketing and logistics management graduate student from Vienna who moved in Thursday.

Konrad’s roommate, junior architecture major Jennifer Tradup, was equally enthusiastic about their new home, and said she was looking forward to having a private bedroom and not eating dorm food.

A dining hall is noticeably absent at the Commons, but that is also by design. Students who wish to purchase a meal plan can eat next door at Comstock Hall.

The rooms will give residents the privacy and feel of an apartment building, but the Commons will still provide students with all the advantages that traditional residence halls offer.

“There’s a lot more common space,” Clark said. “The community aspect is much more evident here.”

An outdoor terrace with a view of the Mississippi River and the “club room,” outfitted with couches, a kitchenette, big screen television and a premium sound system, are designed for large-scale student gatherings.

Promoting a sense of community has always been important in residence halls, primarily because the majority of residents are often first-year students or underclassmen still becoming acclimated to college life.

But Horsley said he and his staff are determined to expand on that thinking.

“There’s such an emphasis on freshmen,” Horsley said of traditional residence halls. “This building is designed for college students from freshmen to upperclassmen, and even through graduation,” he said.