BGSU steps up enrollment strategy with constructionWritten by Amy Biolchini | | ABiolchini@toledofreepress.com
BGSU will welcome its second-largest freshman class on record this fall with $200 million worth of construction projects.
“It was no secret that we went through an enrollment dip for the past two to three years,” said Steve Krakoff, associate vice president for capital planning and design at BGSU.
“Students visit campus and see construction and hear about all the buildings for the future, and conclude appropriately that this is a university that’s really doing progressive things,” Krakoff said, mentioning that freshman class enrollment for this fall is up 550 students from 2009.
BGSU is actively constructing its first two Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. The $36 million Stroh Center, a basketball arena and convocation space, is located on Wooster Street and is the most visible project as you enter Bowling Green from I-75. The Wolfe Center for the Collaborative Arts, the newest academic building, will house classrooms, performance spaces, practice rooms and gathering space. The Wolfe Center is already gaining national recognition for its signature design, Krakoff said.
“The design architect Snohetta out of Norway teamed with a collaborative out of Toledo on the Wolfe Center,” Krakoff said.
According to Krakoff, the university is investing $82 million to add two residence halls and two dining halls. They are scheduled for completion August 2011.
One of the new residence halls, located on the south central portion of campus, is strictly orientated for freshmen. Designed intentionally to create informal discussion space, the 660-resident building is divided into living spaces for groups of 40 students.
Residence Life Director Michael Griffel explained the divisions were deliberate so freshmen students could make connections with each other.
“There’s enough people to create a diverse sense of community so people aren’t so insular,” Griffel said.
The freshmen residence hall’s first floor is a multipurpose space that can be used for group study, project meetings, academic events and social functions, Griffel said. The second residence hall under construction on the northwest part of campus will have a similar first floor. Intended for sophomores and upper class students, the hall will feature four-person suite-style rooms.
“Students, as they mature and grow through their college years, need a little more independence and space,” Griffel said.
Construction has just begun on the 30,000-square-foot McDonald Dining Center that will include dining, food preparation and retail food space. Plans for replacing the Commons Dining Hall are in design phases.
The new dining halls are focused on integrating food and education in a “Cooking Channel” type atmosphere, according to Griffel. A significant portion of the kitchen will be in plain sight and menus will emphasize quality, fresh ingredients.
“Should we be successful in getting certification, we believe those two dining facilities will be the first two freestanding LEED-certified dining facilities on a U.S. campus,” Krakoff said.
Several current BGSU students have commented on how parking has become an issue with the multitude of current projects. Krakoff said that both pedestrian and car traffic will be interrupted, but that it’s a sign of progress.
“I think they’ll experience a university that is far more responsive to their needs,” Krakoff said. “What you’re really seeing is the first phase of renovations to campus that will continue on over the next decade.”
Financing for the university’s construction comes from a variety of sources, from state funds for basic renovations to student-fee funded projects like the Stroh Center. The two residence halls are supported through an outside funding structure, Krakoff said.
In addition to the large scale construction projects, BGSU is investing $4 million in renovating its ice center and $14 million in minor energy conservation procedures including lighting and automated building systems; $15 million has been allocated to improving infrastructure, utility tunnels, a central water chiller plant and extending IT capability to the easternmost parts of campus.
“The university is so committed to student success and being contemporary,” Griffel said.