One project almost done, student-housing development begins

By Wayne Bryan Published August 7, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Dan Mabery, left, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence life at Henderson State University, speaks to members of the press as Chad Fielding, assistant vice president for student affairs, stands behind Mabery during a tour through the new campus store that is now open for the fall semester.

Construction workers have been busy on the campus of Henderson State University this summer, and two new buildings will soon be underway that will have a big impact on students, starting in fall 2015.

Renovations to the Garrison Student Center at the core of the campus in Arkadelphia are almost complete, after work going on during the spring semester and through the summer. School officials hope the upgraded facilities will draw more of the student community to the center.

“We want to concentrate student services, bring them into Garrison and be more efficient,” Provost Stephen Atkinson said during a tour of the Garrison Center. “It will be convenient for the students and encourage a sense of community for them.”

Among the consolidations, the package service moved from the campus post office to a counter in the Reddie Bookstore. The bookstore, which was totally remodeled as part of the renovations to the Garrison Center, is also getting a convenience store. The Starbucks coffee shop and the Chick-fil-A location that opened in Garrison last year have been expanded, and they will be open longer hours once school starts in a few weeks.”

On the second floor of the student center, a new technology center will open for student use. There will also be a commuter student lounge for nonresident students.

“The commuter students who can’t go back to a dorm room will have a place to go between classes,” said Chad Fielding, assistant vice president for student affairs.

A substation for the HSU campus police will also be located in the center. The 300-seat lecture hall has also been redone with more lighting and new technology for large classes, presentations and movies.

“We can have two to three events in one day in here,” Fielding said.

The most dramatic changes are to the new Grand Ballroom, which has been transformed from what was formerly the Day Gym.

“Only a year ago it was a multipurpose room, painted gray and looking much like a high school gym,” said Dan Mabery, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence life. “The only thing really left is a little of the curved roof, which has been enhanced in the ceiling with arches reminiscent of the tresses in the gym.”

The large meeting space can accommodate 500 people for a dinner and can be subdivided into two rooms.

Renovations to the Garrison Center were paid for through $1.7 million in general-improvement funds provided by the Arkansas Legislature.

Elsewhere on campus, Henderson State is getting ready to start construction of new and different student housing.

Funded by a $33 million, 30-year bond issue approved by HSU’s Board of Trustees in the spring, two resident halls will be built and should be ready for students at the beginning of fall 2015. In addition, using the bond funds, the university has purchased the Whispering Oaks apartment complex just north of the HSU campus.

“Our plans to construct new housing are a direct result of conversations with students and prospective students about their needs and desires,” said Lewis Shepherd, vice president of student and external affairs.

Fielding said new students have different expectations about college living.

“Today’s new students are used to their own room, with a big-screen TV and other technology and a different sense of privacy,” he said. “Students have been saying their top priority is housing with options. We have been working with students to bring to campus what they want, so the new residences are student-driven.”

A housing complex will be built at 10th Street and M.H. Russell Drive.

Groundwork has started on a new 240-bed complex that will include a clubhouse and a swimming pool for student residents at the site of what had been the intramural sports fields.

“There will be luxury apartments for two or four students,” Mabery said. “Each will have his own private bedroom, with a double bed and a full bathroom. The furnished apartment will have a full kitchen and laundry facilities.”

In addition, the housing complex will feature study rooms, along with a clubhouse and a pool.

“This will be a place students will really enjoy. It allows students who want to pay for this kind of housing to have it available,” Mabery said. “Students have looked at this plan and said, ‘This is it.’ Some junior and senior students and grad students actually perform better with more independence.

“When people drive into Arkadelphia from the interstate and Caddo Valley, this complex and the OBU football field across the street will let people know they are in university country.”

Both Fielding and Mabery, who conducted the tour of the new student housing locations, said using the field where the band has traditionally practiced and where Rally on the Ravine activities have been held has created some controversy.

They said the band will practice on both the practice football field and at the field in Carpenter-Haygood Stadium, and intramural sports and Rally on the Ravine will be moved to a new location at Millcreek Drive and 15th Street.

The new area is about 4 acres and will be reshaped to keep water off the fields, and lighting will be installed.

“It’s a very nice space for student sports,” Fielding said. “We will be working with the Arkadelphia Parks and Recreation Department to use their softball fields, and this new space will be used for flag football, soccer and the Frisbee sports.

“I have high hopes about what this space will look like.”

Land preparation has also begun for a 300-bed traditional residence hall at the intersection of 12th and Wilson streets on campus.

The Blackmon House, once occupied by music faculty, has been torn down and the faculty members moved to the Bowen House. The Oliver House, which had housed Henderson’s STEM Center, will be torn down soon, Fielding said.

“[The new dorm] will be a U-shaped complex, and the parking lot will become a green space as a courtyard for the housing,” he said. “There will be two students in each dorm room, and between two rooms will be a common bathroom.”

There will also be triple suites, sharing a common bath and shower, as well as a laundry facility in the dorm.

While the university offers no married-student housing, Mabery said the purchase of the Whispering Oaks apartments will help make some housing available to married students and single parents with children.

While some parking space is being taken by the new construction, Fielding said, new parking will be created. He said there is plenty of parking available on campus.

“We don’t have a parking problem,” Mabery said. “We have a convenience problem. There is a parking space always available within six to seven minutes of anywhere on campus, but if there is not a space right in front of the building, there isn’t enough parking.”

Mabery said the facilities should be in place in the Garrison Center when school starts.

“When students first walk in, they will see a shining building,” he said. “There will still be some dust around as the last-minute details are being completed.”

Both new student residence halls are expected to be completed and ready for the students in August 2015, Fielding said.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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