With a growing enrollment and a requirement that all of its freshmen live on campus, the Las Cruces-based New Mexico State University is on the verge of building a modern and architecturally significant residence hall.
“We’ve finished about 75 percent of the construction documents and are now reviewing those drawings,” notes Heather Zack Watenpaugh, NMSU’s campus planning officer and university architect.
“If all continues to go well, this project will most likely go out to bid at the end of the winter,” she adds.
The new structure, which will house around 300 beds, is set to go up near the school’s Corbett Center Student Union.
Upon completion, it will bear the same distinctive Spanish Renaissance Revival design seen in other NMSU structures, including, most prominently, the Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Hall, which was originally a Works Progress Administration project.
That building, also a residential facility, saw construction during World War II and is registered with New Mexico’s State Register for Cultural Properties.
“We’re trying to repeat that style with our new buildings, creating a kind of branding and cohesive feel for the entire campus,” says Watenpaugh.
The new residence hall couldn’t be coming at a better time.
In 2016, the school’s Board of Regents voted in favor of requiring all NMSU freshmen to live on campus for at least the first year of their college career.
“They said there’s a difference in the needs of students based on the year they are participating,” remarked Regent Board member Mike Cheney at the time of the vote, referring to a study conducted for NMSU by the Washington-based Brailsford & Dunlavey, a program management and development advisory firm.
“With freshmen it’s good to engage them and involve them and immerse them in the university community,” continued Cheney during a Regents meeting. “As you become sophomores, juniors and seniors, you move toward autonomy.”
The new policy took effect last fall, meaning that at least 2,000 freshmen moved into NMSU residential facilities.
But it has not been a policy without controversy.
“Texas students, but specifically El Paso students, feel that the housing requirement is certainly unnecessary for their situation,” noted the Round Up, NMSU’s student newspaper. “Other El Paso students love change and want to experience the full college life of living in the dorms and possibly visiting home on the weekends.”
“We’ve tried to keep the residence hall apartments that are located closest to the center of the campus full and maintained,” says Watenpaugh. “By keeping them in a nice condition, students can more appreciate the benefits of living on campus and being closer to their classes.”
The new residence hall will be three stories tall, featuring semi-suite or shared rooms, and will also offer a courtyard, with the residents’ entrance at the building’s north tower lobby.
“There will be student spaces on each floor and a kitchen on the third floor that can be used for either teaching or entertainment,” continues Watenpaugh.
The roughly 74,000 square foot building will also house a laundry.
Because meals and study spaces can be found at the next-door Corbett Center Student Union, says Watenpaugh, “we didn’t want to duplicate a lot of those functions” in the new residence hall.
The new structure will be going up on a site of old memories.
It was once the home of the three-story Monagle Hall, which was built in 1965 and for years served as a women’s residence center.
Because the building, which in some parts had the look of a 1960s suburban motel, was deemed as structurally inefficient and too costly to maintain, NMSU demolished it last year.
Work on the new residence hall is expected to begin sometime this coming June, with a completion date of one year after that—in plenty of time for students to move into the modern new facility by the fall of 2019.
by Garry Boulard
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