Campus Modernization

WMU Prepares Three Dorms for Demolition

Western Michigan University, located in Kalamazoo, Mich., is readying its campus for a major construction initiative. According to a recent news release, contractors are preparing three small dorms for demolition while taking care to preserve and protect some natural historic features on the grounds.

The university’s South Neighborhood Sub-campus Master Plan will rework the southern part of campus to build new student housing, a dining facility and student center, retail establishments, and other venues in a development known as the Hilltop Village. The first step of the construction is to remove three older campus residence halls—Davis, Zimmerman, and French Halls. Construction fences have already gone up around the facilities. Davis and Davis Dining are scheduled for demolition in the first week of May, followed by Zimmerman and later French, to be complete by the end of September.

Davis Hall originally opened in 1954. Davis Dining and Zimmerman opened in 1955, and French opened in 1960.

During the planning process, a campus committee identified a burr oak tree at the site that’s at least 200 years old, predating both the university’s founding and Michigan’s statehood. This historic heritage tree will be preserved during the demolition and construction process alongside a pin oak from the 1950s. Several other, smaller trees have already been moved to other locations on campus, according to project manager Shannon Sauer-Becker.

“We have been very selective with what we are taking out and will be protecting what will remain,” Sauer-Becker said. “There won’t be any heavy equipment in the courtyard. We highlighted what might be particularly valuable to maintain, and construction will take these natural features into account.”

Dr. Todd Barkman is a professor of biological sciences and was a member of the campus tree advisor committee that identified the historic natural features worth saving. He said he looks forward to the burr oak gaining prominence as the new development project rises around it.

“Early input on the project was sought and given, and a great outcome is resulting,” said Barkman. “This has been a great example of the University administration embracing the intent of our Tree Campus Higher Education status and how the teaching interests of our campus can be balanced with those of our landscaping professionals and campus planners.”

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].

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