Residential Services hires company to create Housing Master Plan

Junnie Kwon, Reporter

The University has hired a program management firm to help define the direction of on-campus housing for the next ten years.

Residential Services contacted Brailsford & Dunlavey early this year to create a report of recommendations for university housing called the Housing Master Plan. The plan covers multiple aspects of residential life, from reviews on current housing environments to reports on countrywide trends on college campuses, said Paul Riel, executive director of Residential Services. The plan will also include guidelines for future construction and renovation.

He called the report in progress “a fairly ambitious document, a road map for the next 10 to 20 years.”

University President Morton Schapiro reemphasized to The Daily on Monday his interest in adding 1,000 beds to undergraduate housing, focusing on apartment-style rooms for juniors and seniors similar to Kemper Hall.

Part of B&D’s research includes studying the off-campus housing market to ensure that on-campus residential options remain reasonable and competitive, Riel said.

To create the plan, the firm is currently compiling information in two phases: fact-finding, which includes details about facility infrastructure, and student input, which involves B&D staff talking to students in focus groups, according to Riel.

To make sure the focus groups accurately represent the student body, Mary Goldenberg, director of Residential Life, helped B&D choose participants from various student organizations, said Riel.

“We’re talking to graduate students, fraternity students, new students, on-campus students, off-campus students to make sure what we’re gathering is a fair representation of student desires for what they want on campus,” Riel said. “For a slice of pizza, spend an hour with us.”

The firm made its first campus visit last May to host the initial round of focus groups. One group consisted of presidents from residential colleges and members of the Residential College Board. Three B&D staff members mediated the discussion and asked the students about their opinions and preferences for the future.

“It was not just for show,” said Tyler Rehak, Weinberg junior and president of CCS who participated in the group.  “They were definitely considering our opinions and getting our suggestions down.”

One of the recommendations the students gave was to improve the housing website to include insightful details beyond how many rooms each residential college had, said RCB president Miranda Zhao.

“Even though it was only an hour, it gave us an opportunity to speak about what we wanted,” the Weinberg junior said. “I don’t know what happened in the end, but I do know that it was really nice of them to invite us.”

The B&D staff returned to campus in October and interviewed five focus groups last week.

This is Residential Services’ first time collaborating with B&D and conducting a study as extensive as the master plan in the last decade, Riel estimated.  The same company is currently conducting a study on Norris University Center and its future possibilities.

“You wouldn’t want to do these every year because you wouldn’t want to change your plan as it got started,” Riel said.

Moving forward, B&D plans to send out a campus-wide survey in the next two months.