Officials looking for student feedback on new facility

The proposed parking garage at Butler University will likely add a significant amount of housing—in addition to parking spaces—if it is approved by the Board of Trustees.

Vice President for Student Affairs Levester Johnson presented preliminary sketches of possible new rooms at a Student Government Association meeting last week.

“We wanted to get (students’) feedback on that design and offer any feedback on that, the location and amenities,” Johnson said.

One sketch displayed a four-person room containing two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room area and a kitchenette.

Johnson called the sketch a blend between a Residential College room and an Apartment Village room.

This type of housing would target sophomores, as the university is going to be lacking living space for second-year students on campus next year “to the extent of about 280 to 300 beds,” Johnson said.

Scott Nemeth, SGA vice president of administration, said students present at the SGA meeting responded positively to the plan Johnson presented.

“I would say that students were, overall, enthusiastic about it,” Nemeth said. “I thought LJ provided a lot of insight to a project in its infancy, which is cool to do.”

SGA President Mike Keller said students brought up a few concerns, namely regarding cost and the furnishing of living rooms.

Keller said a narrow majority expressed their desire that the living rooms not be furnished, primarily because of the cost to live on campus now.

“The housing across campus is just really expensive,” Keller said. “Some people feel like they have to commute or live off campus to escape it.”

Another reason for this request was the idea that, as sophomores, students are getting to a point where they might like to have their own furniture instead of taking care of university property, Keller said.

Other questions posed by students involved being able to open windows in the rooms and the potential views rooms would have.

The proposed project has undergone a healthy amount of change since it was first revealed last spring.

While the original plan was to construct a parking garage that would house as many as 1,000 vehicles, that same building could now host multiple facets of university life.

“I think that (the project) has just developed into this multi-purpose facility that kind of meets the needs of parking, housing and retail space, which are all things students have been asking administration to do for a while,” Nemeth said.

Keller said the proposed complex’s

construction would likely be completed by fall 2014 if approved.

However, the Board of Trustees still has to approve the plan, and Ben Hunter, chief of staff, said it is not up for action at this moment.

One way or another, Butler’s master plan calls for the university to add more housing sometime in the near future, Johnson said.

Additionally, Butler officials would like to do extensive renovations in Ross Hall and Schwitzer Hall around the same time.

Johnson said Butler administrators would continue to gauge student opinion as new information surrounding the project becomes available.

Keller, Nemeth and other members of the SGA board have consistently been invited to participate in meetings with Butler officials and building architects.

“Once things get a little bit closer to where we’re determining what we want to be (in) the retail on the bottom or what the rooms have in them, (Butler officials) have made their intentions known that they’re going to be looking to us as students to be able to fill them in on what students want,” Keller said.

Part of Nemeth’s SGA job is to encourage Butler administrators to attend assembly meetings.

Nemeth arranged for Johnson to attend last week’s meeting for the Council on Presidential Affairs topic of the week and said he believes Johnson will be at future meetings too.

“As we get closer to the project, they’ll probably hold more public forums,” Nemeth said. “I think they’re extremely important because not only do they inform students of what’s going on, but it really allows them to provide insight.

“That’s crucial because I think the administration can sometimes not understand exactly what our wants and needs are.”

Johnson agreed that public forums are crucial at Butler, noting that the original design for Apartment Village was altered in some ways thanks to feedback from students.

“It’s imperative that we go ahead and have these types of gatherings and go even beyond the formal lines we have through SGA and students sitting in on various committees of the Board of Trustees,” Johnson said.

Keller said that although many of Butler’s current students will not get the opportunity to live in the planned housing, they should look forward to the potential project.

“I hope that students see this as an opportunity,” Keller said. “They should really be excited about this project because it’s going to be really correcting a lot of the issues students have with the campus.”

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