East Campus to include more housing, academic buildings
On Stands Now
Construction will break ground on the site of the new East Campus portion of AU beginning this May. The area is scheduled for completion by the summer of 2016.
The new space will include both residence and academic buildings, as well as new outdoor and retail space, according to a statement from Linda Argo, the assistant vice president for External Relations and Auxiliary Services.
“The development of East Campus will allow AU to offer attractive student housing to encourage more undergraduate students to live on campus as well as provide additional faculty office, research, and related space,” she said in an email.
The new buildings will be located on the corner of Nebraska Avenue and New Mexico Avenue, and will replace the Nebraska parking lot. Plans for the site include three residence halls that will house a total of 590 students. The rooms will be similar to Centennial and Cassell halls and have double occupancy with bathrooms, according to Argo.
The residence halls will also feature a student fitness center, retail space with a meal exchange, meeting rooms and administrative offices.
In addition to the residence halls, the conjoining academic building, named the Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building in honor of the late AU chief financial officer, will feature space for the College of Arts and Sciences’ Mathematics and Statistics, Computer Science and Physics departments.
The buildings will also house a game lab for the School of Communication’s new graduate game design program. AU is the first university in the U.S. to offer a master’s degree in persuasive play, according to the program’s website.
Persuasive play can be defined as the art of using imagery and visual representation persuasively, according to the Ian Bogost, the author of “Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames.”
The increased resources for math and science is because the departments need improved academic space, according to College of Arts and Sciences Dean Peter Starr.
“The facilities that we have for our sciences are suboptimal, and those departments in particular really needed new space,” Starr said.
There has been increased student interest in computer science especially, the University wanted to respond to that, he said.
“We think that the computer science program is going to take off now that the gaming program has started,” Starr said. “We’re really trying to build up the computer science program.
East Campus development plans, with an estimated budget of $115 million, are part of AU’s “Strategic Plan,” according to Argo. The plan is an initiative established in 2011 as a long term effort to expand the scope of the University’s work and what it can provide to students, according to the plan’s website.
Starr said he is most excited about the collaborative spaces that will be available for students, and the visual appeal that the new academic buildings will have.
“I think it’s going to be a feast for the eyes and the imagination,” he said. “I think it’s going to look very different from many AU buildings.”
Recently, workers from Wings Enterprises, a company that is being considered to subcontract on AU projects, protested outside Katzen Arts Center. The workers were protesting against poor safety conditions, low wages and mistreatment from management, the Eagle previously reported.
The construction plans have also been met with some anxiety by community members. Residents living adjacent to the site of East Campus expressed concerns earlier this spring to the University about a lack of a buffer between the new site and the houses next to it.
Some residents are also concerned about where construction workers will park and the increased traffic caused by the construction, according to senior Joe Wisniewski, a commissioner on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which represents local community members.
“[Some residents] are worried that the buffer isn’t going to be maintained in the long run,” Wisniewski said. “That’s the big concern [:] the dorms on Friday and Saturday night, and how it’ll affect [residents’] quality of life.”
In response to these concerns, development administrators held a community meeting on March 11 to discuss any issues residents had over the upcoming construction. Argo said that the University announced its plan to plant trees as a buffer between houses and the new campus to community members and to monitor workers and where they park during construction.
“We will continue to meet with the neighbors as the project progresses to update them on construction, as well as to address any questions or concerns they may have,” she said.
However, Wisniewski said he believes the developments will benefit the wider community, and the University has taken positive steps to work through any local problems.
“The University has done all it could to reach out to the community,” he said. “But it also gets to the point that the University needs to build up. AU is part of the community and is trying to get residents to realize what a benefit we are to the community.”