New housing and dining vision focuses on campus neighborhoods

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Artist's rendering of new WMU residential neighborhoods.

Campus to be organized into four neighborhoods that can accommodate more than 6,800 students.

KALAMAZOO—The Western Michigan University campus will become a series of residential neighborhoods over the next two years as University officials implement a long-term strategic plan to blend housing and dining needs with the academic success goals of a new generation of college students.

Plan 2015 was outlined by Dr. Diane K. Anderson, vice president for student affairs, during a July 18 report to the WMU Board of Trustees. The initiative is a comprehensive housing and dining strategy, tailored to WMU's overall strategic plan, that will transform campus life. It features both new and renovated residence halls and new and enhanced dining facilities that will encourage students to connect with their fellow students as they enjoy restaurant-style amenities and choices.

"We've developed a strategic plan to create communities that enhance social interaction and will appeal to the kind of students we seek to recruit and retain," says Anderson. "We're creating neighborhoods that are intentionally designed to support student success, respond to student and parent expectations, and allow us to compete well against our competitor institutions."

Artist's rendering of new WMU residence hall.

Campus neighborhoods to feature new residence halls, enhanced dining facilities and upgraded amenities.

The organization of campus neighborhoods is designed to leverage some $30 million in new campus living and dining facilities invested since 2006 as well as more than $84 million in new investments. The campus will be organized into four neighborhoods that can accommodate more than 6,800 students:

  • West Neighborhood encompasses the recently built Western View apartment-style residence halls and the new Western View Community Center.
  • Valley Neighborhood includes six existing residence halls, all with upgraded bathrooms; a major new dining facility; and former dining areas renovated to become community, social, study and academic support areas. Nearby Goldsworth Valley Apartments also are included.
  • Center Neighborhood will be made up of a residence hall built for fall 2015 occupancy where Bigelow and Hoekje halls now stand. It also includes nearby Henry Hall and the Hoekje-Bigelow dining room that is in the Bernhard Center.
  • South Neighborhood includes a set of existing residence halls for upperclassmen. "The Big Four" is made up of Draper, Siedschlag and Ernest and Smith Burnham Halls. "The Little Three" halls—Davis, French and Zimmerman—are part of the neighborhood as well as Elmwood Apartments and the recently renovated Bistro 3 dining facility.

Major building projects that are part of the plan include a $48-million, 750-bed residence hall that will comprise much of the Center Neighborhood and a $36 million, 65,000-square-foot dining facility for the Valley Neighborhood. The new residence hall will be targeted at incoming students and will include such features as central but private bath areas maintained by house staff and third-floor social and recreational areas open to all residents. 

The Valley Dining facility will feature seven restaurant-style food service areas offering foods ranging from pizza and pasta to rotisserie specialties and dessert creations. The dining hall location will be identified this fall with input from the WMU community. While designed to primarily serve students in the Valley Neighborhood, the new dining facility will be open to all students, faculty, staff and visitors.

"These new facilities are definitely designed to provide a 'wow factor' that will help differentiate WMU," Anderson says.

The residential neighborhood design, she says, will offer distinct advantages to students regardless of the part of campus in which they choose to live.  Each residential neighborhood is unique and takes its shape and character from key elements in the surrounding environment—academic buildings; recreation, entertainment and athletic facilities; and off-campus retail access. Each neighborhood is different, but they share a common goal.

"Residential neighborhoods provide students with a sense of belonging and connection to WMU," Anderson says. "While students enjoy that feeling of belonging, they'll have access to the complete set of tools intentionally designed to support their overall college careers."

The new housing and dining plan supports goals that are part of the University's campuswide strategic plan that call for ensuring a distinctive learning experience and advancing social, economic, and environmentally sustainable practices and policies.