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UAS looks at new dorm options

University wants new freshman dorm built in campus center

Posted: June 6, 2012 - 12:03am
  Illustration by Melissa Griffiths / Juneau Empire
Illustration by Melissa Griffiths / Juneau Empire

The University of Alaska Southeast has $8 million available to expand its Banfield Hall dorm, but is now looking at using that money to instead build a new freshman dorm close to the center of campus.

“The project has changed significantly,” said Keith Gerken, director of Facilities Services for the Juneau-based regional school.

“It was going to be 60 beds in either case; we were going to add 60 beds on the end of Banfield, now we’re going to build 60 beds as a stand-along dorm on campus,” he said.

One concern is the cost of building a new dining facility at the remote Banfield location, when UAS already has the Mourant Building’s food service facilities.

UAS needs additional student housing in part due to high apartment rents in Juneau, higher than either Anchorage or Fairbanks.

It also helps freshmen to succeed in college by having them in a “living and learning environment where academic and social programs are aligned to promote student success,” university officials say.

Locating a new dorm close to the heart of campus will have incoming freshman close to both the library and food service, and keep UAS from having to duplicate services.

The current student housing area, including both Banfield Hall’s dorm rooms and the apartments for older students is about a three-quarter mile walk from Mourant, he said.

University staff and its design firm have identified 4-5 possible sites for a new freshman dorm. Their proximity to central campus and its abundant parking will present some cost savings, he said.

Adding onto Banfield would have meant constructing an additional 25 parking spaces, but building in the center of campus means essentially no new parking will be needed, although any design is likely to have about half a dozen parking spots right next to the building, Gerken said.

Because many freshmen don’t have cars, fewer parking spaces than rooms are needed.

And the UAS campus already has ample parking, because the demand for parking has lagged the school’s overall growth, he said.

“A great percentage of that growth in the last 8-10 years is distance (learning), so the university may be growing but they may not be on campus,” Gerken said.

One of the possible dorm sites may take a bit of the existing parking but the others won’t, he said.

“The bulk of the parking for the occupants of the building will use existing parking spaces that we have an excess of on campus,” he said.

Staff and consultants are now reviewing possible site locations, first looking at four options, but lately considering a fifth as well.

Gerken said the architect thought a fifth site on the other side of the pavilion should also be considered.

“None of them are wildly different, all are within a stone’s throw of the center of Auke Lake campus,” he said.

Staff will be hashing out advantages and disadvantages of each site to present to university leaders for a final decision, he said.

The goal, he said, is to break ground next spring, which will take a site decision by later this summer.

Final funding for the project was in the capital budget signed into law by Gov. Sean Parnell recently.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250, or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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