By Walter Kraft / EMU
YPSILANTI — The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents today (Dec. 9, 2021) approved the initial steps in a plan that will further transform the University with an investment of more than $200 million over the next three years in a massive new campus housing initiative. The initial plan includes the construction of new student housing facilities and renovations to existing housing.
Among the signature elements of “Welcome Home 2025” is the construction of a new, approximately 400-bed apartment-style residence hall next to the Student Center that will overlook the pond on the north side of campus.
The newly constructed and renovated residence halls and apartments will likely include state of the art WiFi capabilities, air conditioning and room designs/layouts that meet the needs of students, who will have a significant role in the design process. The goal is to provide every EMU student housing resident with quality and affordable housing that includes proper technology to meet the demands of today’s academic world.
The transformative $200 million-plus investment will be financed through a partnership with Gilbane Development Company.
“‘Welcome Home 2025’ accelerates our investments in the University’s facilities and infrastructure that have been underway for several years,” said EMU President James Smith. “We have expanded and modernized academic facilities such as the Science Complex and Sill Hall, which houses the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. These are now state of the art facilities, as is our Rec/IM building, thanks to a $16 million investment that took an older facility and transformed it into a modern health club, with new equipment and programs that focus on overall student wellness.
“It is now time, and many would say it is long overdue, to turn our attention to a leading student mandate – to revitalize University housing to meet the needs of today’s students. ‘Welcome Home 2025’ is an ambitious and exciting plan that will transform Eastern Michigan University for decades into the future.”
Goals of the plan include:
- Student affordability: keeping rates affordable is the number one priority of the plan.
- Ensuring a high quality residence life experience: EMU will continue to employ resident assistants, assign rooms to residents, and manage any violations of housing policies.
- Students engagement: students will be extensively involved in the design process and ongoing management of EMU student housing.
“I want to make clear that the University has never considered privatizing student housing, said President Smith. “Under this plan, Eastern is working with an experienced team of partners who would provide the financing, construction and operational expertise for new and renovated housing facilities.
“We are aware that some members of the University’s Faculty Senate are concerned about these plans that will result in a transformative modernization of University housing. Discussions about improving student housing have been underway with our campus community for three years, and we plan to continue to work with the faculty members who are concerned about these efforts to clear up misinformation and to share the benefits of our housing plans.”
The University’s three-year planning process has been methodical and has engaged students, staff, and faculty. Under this plan:
- EMU will not be selling student housing facilities;
- EMU will continue to approve housing rate increases;
- Residence life staff, such as RAs, will remain employed by EMU;
- EMU will continue to manage virtually all key aspects of the student housing experience; and,
- The partnership will provide a mechanism for future investments to maintain student housing facilities at a high standard.
Recognizing that its student housing facilities are, on average, 57 years old and in need of substantial modernization, the University began formally exploring options for improving the University’s student housing system in 2018. The University engaged Rieth-Jones Advisors (RJA), a trusted advisor in the university housing partnership industry, to provide advisory services throughout the entire process. RJA completed a student survey, housing market study, and housing master plan to help the University determine what students want in an on-campus housing experience. Students will continually be engaged over the coming months during the pre-development process as well as throughout operations.
The University also engaged with the Student Government, University Budget Council, and Faculty Senate, allowing these bodies to provide their collective feedback regarding plans for upgrading and financing improvements to student housing. The University issued a public Request For Qualifications (RFQ) in June 2020, leading to a Request For Proposals (RFP) being issued in July 2021 to the selected firms from the RFQ. The University established a Review Committee to assess both the RFQ and RFP submissions, hear presentations, and conduct interviews with the potential development partners. As a result of the collective review process, the Review Committee recommended to the President that the University select Gilbane Development Company as its housing partner.
As a result of today’s action by the University’s Board of Regents, Eastern Michigan will work with Gilbane to finalize a Pre-development Agreement. Gilbane and the University will then begin pre-development and design work, while working to finalize the formal agreements. These agreements are expected to be presented to the Board of Regents in mid-2022.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University’s website.