A half-century ago Bradley was in the midst of a housing boom.
Nearly every hall on campus was built between the late ‘50s and early ‘70s as more and more people started going to college.
Since then, the only major change to housing at Bradley was the addition of the St. James Apartment Complex about 10 years ago.
Old lounges, furniture and floor plans greet everyone who enters the rest of the residence halls.
That, among other things, prompted Student Senate to create a housing committee, which then put together a report offering prioritized changes to each of the halls and the residential system in general.
University administrators have looked over the report, but many of the recommendations aren’t feasible – at least not right now.
The solution to the housing problem seems simple – just build better dorms.
That solution, however, presents a host of other problems, administrators said.
It’s all about the Benjamins
The poor economy and the university’s other ongoing projects, which cost a total of $100 million, is the major reason the residence halls aren’t being worked on as you read this. And the work isn’t done yet – the business and engineering convergence center hasn’t even been started.
So that, coupled with the fact that Bradley has already spent millions on other types of renovations like the installation of sprinkler systems, which was state mandated, and new ceilings, means money has already been spent.
Other updates have been to dorm furniture, including desks and beds, and to bathrooms.
Another expensive endeavor was the replacement of all the mattresses in the halls, Nathan Thomas, executive director residential living and leadership, said.
But even if Bradley had every dollar it would take to update the halls, there’s still another huge obstacle.
The university has a space problem. The school can’t continue to gobble up block after block of houses because it would cost too much and the city and the neighborhoods don’t want Bradley branching out that far.
Add to that the fact that the dorms are already at about 95 percent capacity, which means there is a short window of time, probably during the summer, during which work could be done to the existing structures.
And because there’s no room, the school can’t build a new building, move residents there and then renovate another.
What’s already been done
Since the mid-2000s, Bradley has been doing some sort of behind the scenes work in the halls. Some of that work is noticeable, but much of it is not.
Air conditioning has been installed in University and Wyckoff Halls. Bathrooms have been updated. And all the furniture, among other things, in Williams Hall has been replaced.
It’s not completely clear yet what Bradley is going to do with housing in the future, mainly because there are so many other things on the school’s plate.
Some would like to see dorms of some kind go up in the parking lot just west of the Markin Family Student Recreation Center, but it’s not clear yet whether that will be a good spot for student housing. It’s also unclear whether or not another building would be better suited for that area.
Regardless of whether Bradley builds some new halls or renovates the existing ones, university administration won’t have floor plans that look like those currently in place.
“Are [traditional dorms] what we would build today? The answer is no, of course not,” said Gary Anna, vice president for business affairs.
New buildings and renovations would move toward suite style arrangements that have a few students to a room with a living space in between, something like an apartment. Rooms or suites would also have their own bathrooms, replacing the current communal ones.
Believe it or not, there are plans to renovate Heitz Hall.
And while those living there now won’t benefit, the renovation might be done just in time for those from the class of 2015 living there.
The $6 million renovation will change the floor plan of the building to suite style. Basically, every two bedrooms will have a common living room in between them.
The money for the project is available for construction to start this summer, but Anna said he hopes the school is in a better position come summer 2011.
In the meantime
Senate’s housing report called for a few more immediate updates to the existing buildings.
One of the improvements recommended was for the installation of ID swipe card access for each dorm’s lobby and possibly for the dorm rooms themselves. That, however, would be fairly complicated, mainly because it would cost the universities thousands of dollars to install and run, and that would lead to higher fees, Anna said.
Other recommendations include updated lounge furniture, additional washers and dryers, and changes to the fire alarm system.
Also recommended was the addition of wireless Internet, the feasibility of which the university is already studying.
The day to day issues the report brings up, such as fixing the occasional leaky ceiling, will continue to be fixed by utilizing the system already in place, Anna said.