Wednesday, 1 February, Vice-President of Campus Outreach Bob Miller and Senior Vice President Randy Doran from KDC Real Estate and Investments announced to the public the status of the East Campus project. In a familiar story from Sangren Hall’s reconstruction last year, it all comes down to Lansing.
It isn’t known if Michigan will provide some of the essential funding necessary, but on paper chances look good. A bill under consideration would grant money for redevelopment of public buildings for private use; a bill that the East Campus project would qualify for. Without the passage of that bill, Doran said, “[East Campus] would be a very difficult project.”
Of course, to qualify under the proposed bill East Campus needs to become privately owned. This had been the general plan from the start, though the specifics aren’t yet decided. It’s likely that the final contract will either take the form of long-term lease or full transfer of ownership with WMU reclaiming the campus sometime down the road; likely twenty or thirty years.
Legislative action isn’t the only delay, however. In order for the redevelopment to begin on East Hall in particular, the archives housed there would need to be moved. Miller addressed this by saying a new archival facility would be constructed and an announcement about that would be coming soon.
As for the project itself, more specifics have become available but a full and detailed plan still isn’t finalized. The things we have heard, though, were very exciting for Tara Bell, President of Students for East Campus, who previously had concerns about the preservation of the historic nature of the campus. One of the most exciting features for her was the announcement that in addition to preserving as much history as they can; the developers plan to restore the columns on the north and south porticos of East Hall. “There will be three sets of columns again!!![sic]” Bell commented in an email to Her Campus.
Another point of excitement for Bell was the companies that KDC Real Estate and Investments would partner with for the renovation efforts. The companies included Hopkins-Burns of Ann Arbor, Granger Construction of Lansing and Tower-Pinkster of Kalamazoo; providing work for Michigan-based companies. This is in line an effort initiated by the Western Student Association last year to make the University more conscious of positive steps to impact the economy in Michigan. Efforts will also be made to have the redeveloped East Campus LEED certified, though to what level is yet to be determined.
“Personally, I am optimistic about what the developer said,” remarked Bell. Though, despite the exciting plans and people involved she does have concerns. Foremost among them is the fate of the project if the state funding bill isn’t passed. For that reason, she posed a course of action for students to take; “The best thing for people to do is write to their representative about the project on East Campus, and to emphasize that it is NOT WMU seeking state money. It is private businesses seeking funds for a project that will stimulate the local Kalamazoo economy.”
She added, “That’s all we can really do right now.”
Students for East Campus will be posting video of the event soon.
Editor: Samantha Sandler