Historic building to be new residence hall

by Jessica Steeno

Next fall, students who want to live on campus without living in a dorm will have another option.
University officials plan to remodel the current Mineral Resources Research Center building into an apartment-style residence hall similar to Roy Wilkins Hall. The hall is another part of administrators’ plans to encourage more students to live on campus.
The center, located at 56 East River Road, has been vacant since 1991, when it was closed because of budget cutbacks. The center opened in 1911 and was a center for research related to Minnesota’s iron resources.
Although it would be cheaper to build a new hall, University officials want to use the center’s current space but are unable to tear it down because it is on the registry of historic buildings for the state of Minnesota.
“As a structure it’s old and hasn’t been utilized, but the foundation is extremely solid and the location could not be better,” said University Vice President of Student Development and Athletics Dr. McKinley Boston. “It will be very nice for students to talk about having the Mississippi River as part of their front porch.”
Administrators say that having more residence halls will benefit the University because studies have shown that students who live closer to campus do better in school.
Last year, nearly 300 students who wanted to live in the dorms were denied rooms because of lack of space.
“Research clearly shows that the more students are involved in the traditional campus life, the higher the buy-in to the collegiate experience, thus the better their grades, the better the retention, and, eventually, the more improved graduation rate,” Boston said.
The details of the new hall have not been worked out yet, Boston said, but he said there will be fewer apartments designed for students to share a bedroom.
A recent study of students who live in residence halls showed that students, after their first year in the dorms, move out because they prefer to have their own bedrooms.
“Many students never had to share a room when you were growing up,” Boston said. “Most of the people that original residence halls were built for shared rooms growing up, so the adjustments to having a roommate was not nearly as great as it is for those students who are now coming to campus.”
The new facility will probably be very similar to Roy Wilkins Hall, although it will contain more efficiency and two-bedroom apartments.
Rents at Roy Wilkins range from $330 per month for students who share a bedroom to $450 each for students who live in a two bedroom and each have their own room.
Students who live at Wilkins generally said they thought the price was fair, in light of the amenities included.
“I think it’s worth it because it’s all furnished, you get free laundry, utilities, electricity, water, everything,” said Stacey Batza, a junior in nursing. Free cable and local phone are also included in the price of rent.
Each of the non-efficiency apartments has a common living room, kitchen, and bathroom and one or two bedrooms.
Students also listed security as a reason they like Wilkins.
“Security is a big thing,” said Mike Lietzau, a junior in the Institute of Technology. “It’s a very secure building. I don’t think you’d be able to find that in other apartments around here.”
Although administrators say this is a good first step in creating the residential community they want to have at the University, they admit that the new hall is only the beginning.
“My concern is that we don’t stop the good work we’ve started,” said Regent Tom Reagan. “Housing needs to go far beyond building one new residence hall. We want to make sure the verbal commitment is followed by actions that are going to provide a housing community to house every student that wants to live at the University of Minnesota.”
Designs for more residence halls are in the planning stages now.