Willard to see fix-up of $3M over summer

Sheila Burt

Willard Residential College will undergo a $3-million renovationover the summer, marking the next stage in Northwestern’s plan torefurbish some of the older campus residence halls and increasehandicap accessibility, housing officials said Thursday.

Facilities Management’s operations department will lead theproject, scheduled to begin June 23 and be “substantially complete”by Sept. 5, said the project’s director, Danny Hohmeier.

Garth Miller, director of University Housing and Food Services,said the budget for the project still is being developed, but heexpects costs to run more than two times the amount of pastrenovations to other buildings because Willard involves moresubstantial changes.

The renovation calls for an overhaul of the building, includinga complete rewiring, a new fire suppression system, plumbingreplacement, furniture refurbishment and additional carpeting,Hohmeier said.

Built in 1938, Willard is the oldest remaining unrefurbishedresidence hall, making it a “natural choice,” Miller said.Willard’s renovation follows similar updates given to Sargent Hall,Shepard Residential College, Elder Hall and Bobb Hall in pastyears.

“We are systematically updating all of the housing structures sowe can provide the best experience possible for our residents,”said Miller, adding that the decision on the next dorm to berenovated will be made Fall Quarter.

The renovation also will make Willard more compliant withregulations determined by the Americans with Disabilities Act,Miller said. To provide more space for students with disabilities,bathtubs will be removed.

In addition, Miller said another ramp or lift could be added tomake the building almost 100 percent accessible. Willard currentlyfeatures a ramp that leads to the basement lounge and an elevatoron the basement floor. Handicapped students as of now can onlyreach the basement lounge.

“The needs (for students) today are much different,” Millersaid. “Bathtubs and closets to store formal dresses are not in highdemand anymore.”

Mary Desler, associate vice president for student affairs, saidshe hopes the additions will make it easier for disabled studentsto eat and live at Willard.

Ariel Schwartz, a member of NU’s access committee, helped pushfor increased access to dining services as a co-founder of Wheelsfor Change, an student advocacy group for students withdisabilities.

“I’m very excited because it will be another dining facilitythat will become accessible when not all six are,” said Schwartz,an Education sophomore.

An updated fire system also will be part of the renovation. Thefire system additions are part of a seven-year plan, now in itsthird year, to increase safety in all residence halls, Miller said.About six dorms currently have sprinklers.

Additional renovations to Willard include updating or replacingshowers and old toilets, upgrading the exhaust systems in thebathrooms to provide better ventilation and eliminate high humiditylevels, and rewiring to prevent fuse blow-outs.

Miller said the schedule for Willard’s renovation is “tight” andrequires the changes to “be like clockwork,” but he is confidentthe project will run smoothly and be complete by Fall Quarter.

Willard President Kevin Kearney said the changes are neededbecause faulty connections and low water pressure have plaguedWillard for years. Kearney, a Communication freshman, added thatthe increased wheelchair access especially will benefit theresidence hall.

“Willard is very old. Needless to say, it’s not currently up todate with what a lot of students require,” Kearney said. “I thinkWillard is pretty desirable. … It’s a nice change to open eventsto more people and better accommodate (them).”