Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2007

Baker gets OK from council

August 23, 2007

Baldwin City Council members cleared the way Monday night for a new $6.3 million residence hall at Baker University.

In order to fit the three-story, 190-bed apartment style residence hall in what is currently the parking lot north of Harter Union, Baker officials requested vacation of a portion of the right-of-way along the 600 block of Dearborn and 300 block of Seventh streets. It's a bit of a formality. The hall will not be in the streets.

"This came before the planning commission at their August meeting and they gave approval," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "Baker essentially needs more room there to put in the dorm."

Utility Director Bill Winegar explained that it didn't mean the streets would be used and that it won't affect utilities in the area.

"This doesn't even get in the streets," said Winegar.

Baker President Pat Long attended the meeting and explained the need for the new residence hall. It's among the needs she saw when she took over last year.

"The residence hall will fulfill two of our needs," said Long. "It's hard to recruit without good rooms."

She explained that when the new residence hall is finished, Denious Hall -- the most inefficient of the current dormitories -- and tiny Jolliffe Hall, which is just east of the new structure, will be taken out of the system and used for other purposes. Denious will be converted to a student services building. The science hall will also be remodeled to fulfill the third need Long sees.

"The new residence hall -- we're just excited about that," said Long.

Council members brought up concerns about parking in the area and whether it would adversely affect Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center that is to the north.

"We beat this thing," said Winegar. "It's a full house, but it will fit in there."

Mayor Gary Walbridge, who is also director of the physical plant for the university, explained that parking spots would actually be gained, not lost. The current parking lot has 64 stalls, which would be lost. The new parking lot at Seventh and Chapel has 68 stalls. By closing Denious and Joilleffe, demand would be reduced by 33 and 199, he said. Additional smaller parking lots are also planned. When factored together, it means more parking.

"We're going to gain 132 stalls," said Walbridge.

The groundbreaking and start date for the project is tentatively set for late September with a completion date of August 2008, according to Baker Spokesman Steve Rottinghaus.

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