UNC Asheville prepares campus for two influential construction projects

Maggie Haddock
News Writer
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UNC Asheville will begin construction for five apartment-style residences, a community director apartment and an addendum to Highsmith in May. The projects were largely guided by student input, and multiple workshops were conducted by project designers in order to work directly with the student body. The apartment-style residences will house 294 students in an effort to grant more returning students the option of on-campus housing.

Construction begins on a new addition to Highsmith along with new residence halls in May. Photo by Maggie Haddock

“One of the things we looked for as a committee was how the designers interact with the students and how they took student feedback,” said Vollie Barnwell, director of housing and student life operations.
Student feedback became crucial to the housing project, according to Barnwell.
“From a designer’s standpoint it would be really easy to come in and kind of do it on their own and not get student feedback, but our designers from both projects were great. They came in and did several workshops,” Barnwell said.
The campus has long awaited apartment-style housing, according Nancy Yeager, associate vice chancellor for student affairs.
“Unlike a lot of our other sister campuses, we do not have any apartment-style housing on campus,” Yeager said. “This has been something that we really need, in addition to the fact that students have wanted to live on campus and haven’t been able to.”
Susan Richey, a senior music student at UNCA, said she would take advantage of apartment-style housing if it were available to her.
“I wanted to be on campus my first year here but I became really tired of living on campus,” Richey said. “It just didn’t feel like an adult apartment.”
Richey, who transferred from UNC Wilmington, said apartment-style housing was available to her there.
“I thought it was great,” Richey said. “It was great to be on campus. It was great to be around people who are my age who wanted to live on campus. You didn’t feel like you were staying in a dormitory. You didn’t have to go to RA meetings and stuff like that. It was kind of like a more independent housing situation.”
According to Yeager, the new apartment-style housing will have four to six bedrooms. Every suite will have a full kitchen, a living area and two bathrooms.
The residential village will be along Founders Drive. Two of the buildings will sit on the outskirts of the botanical gardens and the remaining three will reside on the current P22 parking lot behind Brown Hall.
“There are also plans for another building that will have a multipurpose room, a fitness room and it’s also where the community director apartment will be,” Yeager said.
Plans for a new parking deck remain tentative in the construction process, Yeager said. New parking accounting for 110 parking spaces will become available in lot P29. The lot, which has existed for about 5 or 6 years, sits next to the Health and Counseling Center. Current construction plans intend to grant easier access to the parking lot, according to David Todd, director of campus operations.
“What we’re in the process of doing is adding a road that will bring you right into P29,” Todd said. “There’s also a sidewalk associated with this road that will bring you down to the roundabout and give access to the campus.”
Lot P29 currently sits unused, but should become available to the campus community by April, according to Todd.
“There will be new lighting put in along those walkways to make it brighter,” Yeager said. “The idea was to make it easier to get to and so people will not be driving through the neighborhoods in the back to get to it.”
UNCA owns property on Broadway which will be used as contractor parking during the construction period, Todd said.
“We’re going to keep the contractors from parking on the university and taking up parking spaces and we’re going to use that,” Todd said.
Contractors and campus officials have started to prepare for the upcoming projects.
“There will be some things we’re going to try to take advantage of every day we can,” Todd said. “You will definitely see things happening and equipment showing up.”
  Construction will not fully begin until after commencement, stated Yeager.
  “We’ve got to be respectful of exams and those types of things, too,” Todd said.
Rates for apartment-style housing have not yet been determined.
“They will be more expensive because they are apartments and they have kitchens and living rooms and there will be year-round options for the students to be able to live in them,” Yeager said.
Prices, however, will compete with the local housing market of Asheville, according to Yeager.
“We always look at what the market is in Asheville and what’s nearby that students live in so that they will be comparable,” Yeager said.
There will be more housing workshops on campus starting in March, Barnwell said. These workshops will mainly address the furniture in the new residences and these workshops will be open to the campus community to critique the new furniture.
“If we could get 300 or 400 students to come and give us their input that’s excellent,” Barnwell said.
The apartment-style housing will be completed in August 2018.
“We can build anything and have students live there, but it’s better to build what students really want,” Barnwell said.