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Saturday, September 18, 2021

College Inn set to be demolished next year, no current plans for new housing

Article Originally Published by Will Tarpley on North Texas Daily

Article Originally Published by Will Tarpley on North Texas Daily

The College Inn residence hall is set to be demolished in January 2022, following the university shutting down its operations last fall.

A low-income, economic alternative to more expensive residence halls, College Inn hosted up to 412 beds before its closure in consideration of budgetary issues from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  The hall itself was built as a private residence in the 60s before being sold to the university and opened to occupants in the 70s. 

During the university Board of Regents’ August meeting, a presentation revealed that College Inn will be demolished at the cost of $2.5 million. Demolition planning is expected to last from September to December and actual demolition is to occur between January and June of 2022 as contracts are still being discussed.

Chad Crocker, interim associate vice president for Facilities, said the decision came down to costs needed to maintain the old architecture. 

“It needed a completely new [heating, ventilation and air cooling] system, including fresh air intake, boilers and cooling units for each individual apartment,” Crocker said. “All of those would have had to be replaced. The roof also needed to be replaced and the electrical system was at an age where if you were going to do some work you might as well do that at the same time. Expenses add up real fast.”

The old architecture also carried a large amount of asbestos, which could trigger mold growth when the HVAC system would malfunction, according to Crocker. However, he said the asbestos was not much of a factor as costs were low and repairs would be quick. 

“If we had complaints about asbestos or mold, we would address it every time,” Crocker said. “We would rip out the wall of a shower and get a certified asbestos contractor to deal with it. It was manageable.”

Problems mounted, however, when residency dropped at College Inn during the first six months of the pandemic. For Daniel Armitage, associate vice president of Student Affairs, demolition ended up as the solution when occupancy fell below 50 percent and renovation costs rose.

“We had to balance the budget, since Housing and Dining [Services] are auxiliary so they don’t get state dollars,” Armitage said. “[College Inn] was only 48 percent to 50 percent occupied, so we figured we could consolidate and move students out to save money. When we looked at the budget, plus how we expected fall 2021 to look, it didn’t make sense to maintain [the residence hall].”

While Crocker said he could not give a specific number for the cost of renovations, Armitage’s cost estimates ranged from $9 to $12 million and up. 

“Housing facilities are meant to be lived in,” Armitage said. “When people are in there and all the electrical and heating systems are working, it actually holds up better than if it’s vacant and you try to get everything running again.” 

President Neal Smatresk said there were waiting lists and on-campus housing occupancy was at 110 percent at August’s Board of Regents meeting. Armitage said Smatresk was working with information gathered weeks before the meeting and that around 80 to 100 students had not shown up to their residence halls. 

“When we figured out how many no-shows there were, we moved to look at who was still on the waiting list and get them in,” Armitage said. “As of now, I think only four freshmen are still on [the waiting list].”

While there are currently no finalized plans for the property, Armitage said he anticipated the land would be used for a new academic building or another residence hall, but “no decisions have been made.” 

“I also heard discussions of building two residence halls [on the property] and that shrank to one,” Armitage said. “I’ve suggested we wait and look at how next fall is going to look.”

Elizabeth With, vice president of Student Affairs, said housing capacity was full this year at 6,400 residents and the absence of College Inn “didn’t negatively impact housing.” 

“We continuously evaluate our facilities and we will continue to do so,” With said.  “We anticipate that in the long-term we may need to replace the beds [on campus], but at this time we are able to accommodate a very large freshmen class and 1,800 returning students.”

Featured Image: College Inn sign sits on N Texas Blvd. on July 28, 2020. Photo by Samuel Gomez

Source: North Texas Daily

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