by Geoff Larcom, Published September 09, 2013
YPSILANTI – Extensive renovations at Best Residence Hall highlighted another active summer of construction at Eastern Michigan University.
Best Hall, which opened in 1964, is located at the eastern end of EMU’s campus. It is part of a complex that includes Wise, Buell and Downing residence halls and the EMU Dining Commons.
The $2.28 million Best Hall project included an array of renovations aimed at improving students’ living and learning experiences. It is part of a continuing effort at Eastern to strategically invest in key academic and student-related facilities while keeping costs down for students.
The most visible examples of that effort are the $90-million, self-funded Science Complex, which completed a second phase of construction last year, and Pray-Harrold, Eastern's largest and busiest classroom building, which underwent a $42 million renovation that was completed in 2011.
“Best Hall is the latest of many projects we’ve undertaken in the last five years in an unprecedented effort to reinvest in important facilities that help our students and staff succeed at Eastern,” said Scott Storrar, director of facilities planning and construction at EMU. “The campus has never looked better, and students are taking notice.”
The Best Hall project consisted of:
• Painting: Student rooms were repainted, along with corridors, lounges, bathrooms, the lobby and front desk area. Accent paint was added throughout the complex to create a vibrant living and learning environment.
• Front lobby upgrades: A new desk featuring a decorative counter with tile and millwork now anchors the main information area.
• Flooring: New touches include carpet in corridors, resilient flooring in bedrooms, a carpet/tile mixture in study lounges and decorative rubber flooring in stairwells.
• Furniture: New furniture replaced worn items throughout the building. The additions are highlighted by a flexible, lofted bedroom furniture system that today’s students prefer.
• The main lounge: The decorative fireplace in the first-floor lounge/classroom was remade with handmade Motawi tile, out of Ann Arbor, and the room is now air conditioned.
• Second floor lounge: Renovations of this spacious lounge include new carpeting, furniture and a big screen TV.
• Enhanced security: Additions include cameras and card access for the lounge/classroom on the first floor.
Other improvements in Best Hall included extending wireless capability throughout the building, new millwork in student closets, new counter tops and sinks in the bathrooms, and a new ADA/Unisex bathroom on the first floor.
A3C Collaborative of Ann Arbor served as architects for the project. The contractor was JS Vig Construction, also of Ann Arbor.
Other significant projects at Eastern and their cost this past summer included:
• Pray Harrold classroom building: Waterproofing the exterior southwest corner foundation for a new information technology communication distribution channel. ($1,364)
• Campus Tunnel Vault Project: This involved the repair and replacement of damaged concrete and steam and condensate lines associated with Goddard Hall, Brown Hall and the King Hall Utility Tunnel. ($271,283)
Workers also repaired the west wall of McKenny Hall ($3,965), repaired the chimney at Starkweather Hall ($23,778) and removed the abandoned vent stacks at Hoyt Residence Hall Towers ($5,000). In addition, EMU Physical Plant staff restored the large Tower Bell that resided in the demolished Old Main Building, and relocated the bell to the main hall in McKenny Hall ($7500).
The major project currently under way at Eastern is the renovation of Rackham Hall, which previously housed the EMU Children's Institute and several other programs.
Rackham is being remodeled to house the new Physician Assistant Program, set to begin in May 2014. The renovation will meet the program's needs yet keep the building historically accurate to its 1939 design in retaining original architecture features such as art deco tiles on the walls, period light fixtures and original wood paneling.
Rackham's upper floor will be entirely renovated during this phase, with additional mechanical and other building upgrades to the lower floor.
The $3.6 million renovation will include a combination of academic settings, such as an advanced lecture-style classroom, small group meeting rooms, rooms to practice clinical skills, a computer lab for testing and a suite of primary care medical office-style examination rooms.