Budget approved for frat row dorm

The University of Minnesota is continuing with plans to demolish the 1701 University Avenue classroom building this fall to make room for a new residence hall.

Amanda Bankston

The University of Minnesota is continuing with plans to demolish the 1701 University Avenue classroom building this fall to make room for a new residence hall.

The Board of Regents approved a $3.1 million budget for design and pre-construction of a 600-bed residence hall that will include a dining hall.

The hall is anticipated to open in fall 2013 and is intended for freshmen and transfer students, said Laurie McLaughlin, the UniversityâÄôs director of Housing and Residential Life.

Though the project is in its pre-design phase, the building will likely be six stories tall with mostly double-occupancy rooms in a âÄúpod configurationâÄù where eight to ten students will share a community bathroom.

Construction will begin once classes in the 1701 University building are moved into Folwell Hall, which is currently being renovated, said Kevin Ross, the projectâÄôs manager from Capital Planning and Project Management.

McLaughlin said about 200 of the beds will be reserved for members of the greek community on campus, with the possibility of incorporating fraternity and sorority chapter housing as well.

University research shows that the percentage of first-year students living on campus has increased âÄî from 77 percent of in 2004 to nearly 87 percent in the fall 2010.

As a result, between 250 and 320 University students live in temporary expanded housing where lounges are converted into rooms. University housing must double- and triple-up beds in some rooms.

âÄúThis problem is frustrating and disruptive for students,âÄù McLaughlin said. âÄúAfter the connections theyâÄôve made and becoming part of a community, they are asked to up and leave mid-semester.âÄù

Housing and Residential Life currently houses about 21 percent of students âÄî one of the lowest percentages of students living in on-campus housing in the Big Ten, McLaughlin said.

She said the project will âÄúhelp support the academic mission of the school,âÄù citing research finding that first-year students perform better in classes when they live on campus.

Some are not happy about the plans to go forward.

David Salene, the executive director for the proposed Greek Village project, said the 1701 University location was the preferred site for the housing complex that would cater exclusively to the greek community. The project was first introduced in 2005.

He said though initial plans to build Greek Village on that plot were approved by the University, the approval of the new residence hall âÄúwas a surprise.âÄù

âÄúWe are currently in the middle of a conflict between Greek Village and the University,âÄù he said. âÄúWe have entered discussions to come up with a compromise.âÄù

Despite the conflict, which he said will slow the progress of the plan, Salene said he is confident that campus will see a Greek Village in the next two years.