Board of Trustees agree to move forward with Washington Commons design, raise room and board rate

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees met for its formal session Feb. 17 in the Bovee University Center President's Conference Room.

At its Feb. 17 formal meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to move forward with the design phase of the Washington Commons residential complex, construct Lot 75, make improvements to two parking lots and demolish Kewadin Village. 

The four-independent style living halls, proposed to be built along Washington Street where Lot 22 currently sits, will offer housing to undergraduate students with a junior-level status or higher, in an effort to increase the presence of upper-class students living on campus.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to make a final decision on whether to approve the $135 million projects in April.

During the Feb. 16 committee meetings, Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services, Nick Long said the university plans to complete the design development around the same time.

Listening sessions between now and April will be held for board members to gauge faculty, staff, student and community members’ opinions of the plans. Two meetings are planned for the afternoon of February 24 and March 2 in the University Center, per a university press release.

If construction is approved in April, Long said the university will aim to have construction documents ready by August.

Long said the university hopes to complete the construction of Lot 75 to replace commuter parking spots lost to Lot 22. Other plans include completing the demolition of Kewadin Village by the fall or winter of 2022.

The construction of the Washington Commons, per approval, is planned to start in October 2022 and be completed by August 2024 followed by the demolition of the Northwest Apartments by Fall 2024. Long also explained plans to make improvements to Lot 39 and 43; designs plans will begin in March.

Reasons for construction

During committee meetings on Feb. 16, executive director of Student Affairs, Kathleen Gardner said the university needs a housing update to remain competitive with other universities.

“We are strengthening our commitment to outstanding residents with campus experience," she said.

Other institutions that have carried out similar projects in recent years like Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Western Michigan University (WMU), Oakland University (OU) and Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Gardner said. She also said student living preferences have changed and that should be reflected in housing options.

“This generation of college students did not grow up sharing a room with four or five students,” she said.

At the Feb. 17 meeting, students and a faculty member voiced their discontent with the removal of commuter Lot 22.

“The accessible and close parking to get to class is one of the reasons why CMU has such a great appeal to me and to students across Michigan,” sophomore Abbie Slate said.

Faculty member David Kinney echoed Slate's points. He said the proposed housing complex creates more problems than it solves.

“Many of us, all of us really, feel blind-sided by this development,” he said. “It is important to note that Lot 22 faculty like myself and staff would now have to compete for parking with faculty and staff who already park in (other commuter lots). Those other faculty are actually mad at us because we’re going to be competing with them.”

Kinney said town hall meetings – held for public comment – were poorly scheduled and publicized. He said there was little availability for a critique of the plan and “now, suddenly we have a completed… updated Master Plan.”

He also brought up concerns regarding the extra time it takes to cross Broomfield Street if Lot 75 were built – and the danger it poses to students.

“A student said to me it will be nearly impossible for me to get to class on time. Suggesting that we park across Broomfield and walk that distance every day to class is an insult,” he said. “Having to cross Broomfield at West Campus Drive is dangerous. Drivers speed through yellow lights and run red lights frequently.”

He spoke on behalf of another faculty member about the issues Lot 75 could cause for students that have to complete off-campus work as a part of their degree.

“Not having enough parking available near Anspach Hall and the Education building will jeopardize clinical experiences required for program accreditation and teacher certification.

In other news, trustees:

• Approved a room and board rate increase of 3% in the upcoming fiscal year.

• Approved the first step of a plan to build an events quad and a small outdoor amphitheater near the School of Music. Listening circles will be made for students, faculty and staff to have discussions. The project will be carried out in phases. Only the first donor-funded phase has been approved. The university is awaiting funding for the remaining phases, from philanthropy, academic reserves or other means.

• Approved a policy statement update that reaffirms the university’s long-standing position to be actively involved in the legislative and appropriations processes.

• Approved a special healthcare committee to better meet the needs of faculty members by engaging the cabinet with partners in the healthcare community. He pointed out that two trustees, Sharon Heath and vice-chair, Michael Sandler, have spent their whole careers in healthcare.

• Board Chair Richard Studley presented the findings of the Presidential Assessment survey of Davies and announced a $35,000 raise to Davies' base salary in addition to a $75,000 bonus (out of $100,000 possible).

• Three professors were granted emeritus rank: Elisabeth Brockman, Timothy Hartshorne and Sterling Johnson.