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University completes renovation of Elizabeth, hires consulting firm to review other residential colleges

The renovated Elizabeth Residential College brings a more modern look to the University. || Ben McGrath/The News

Murray State has set a renovation plan, which started with the revealing of the newly modernized Elizabeth Hall.

Elizabeth Residential College opened its refurbished building on Aug. 18, to the incoming freshman class and gave others a sight into the changes other residential colleges might one day experience.

Kim Oatman, director of Facilities Management, said the residence hall received a complete restoration.

“The first floor was completely renovated to include a larger lobby and a student lounge, plus accessible restrooms, “Oatman said. “On the upper floors (2 – 9), the center core areas were completely renovated to include new accessible restrooms/showers and student lounges/laundry rooms.

He said most all of the bedroom sizes stayed the same but they did get new furnishings, vanities, floorings, ceilings and paint.

Oatman said the changes also helped the University’s growing “green” initiative.

He said Elizabeth was now considered a more sustainable facility.  The residence hall was the first construction project completed on campus that will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

According to the United States Green Building Council, LEED helps set the framework for building and maintaining green building designs, assisting in everything from construction to operations and maintenance solutions. LEED provides an independent verification which proves a building’s environmental quality, which is calculated on a rating system.

Natalie Lay, sophomore from St. Louis, Mo., said living in Elizabeth’s temporary residence, Old Richmond, helped her appreciate the improvements to the residence hall this year.

“I like that there is a lot more closet space and the drawers have a lot more room than last year,” she said. “Although it is one of the community – style residence halls, it does feel a bit homier.”

Lay said the colleges newly – renovated walls could attribute to Elizabeth’s growing popularity over the following years due to the modernized factor the residential college has.

Crystal Coleman, College Head of Elizabeth Hall, said Old Richmond was still planned to be used by Elizabeth but in a different manner then last year.

“This year we are calling Old Richmond Hall the ‘Summer Home of ‘Lizo’”, she said.  “It’s a temporary place for many international students and other students until they move to their permanent on-campus home.”

Many students wondered what the finished result of the renovations would last semester but Coleman said all of those fears were put to rest n the first day of move- in day.

She said that with the lobby being a main gathering place, some students were worried but most of the feedback Coleman has received has been nothing but positive.

Jordan Jones, sophomore from Paducah, Ky., said although he lived in the Clark Residential College last year, he does not regret his choice switching to Elizabeth.

“I like that it has that hotel style lobby and it’s really nice to see how they renovated it,” Jones said. “The lobby is really nice and it shows the amount of time that was put into it.”

Elizabeth was the first of many renovations planned for the residence halls. David Wilson, Director of housing and residence life, said the renovation plan has had many corrections since the original was submitted.

“The original plan was to try and renovate the high rise buildings over the course of the next 8 to 10 years,” he said. “The next building was going to be Hester, but during the most recent state budget cut, we did not receive approval to encumber debt. “

Wilson said the school has hired a consulting firm to review the current college system, which will look at many qualities of the housing and residence life department, such as the residential college system and programming.

“They will include all areas of housing, including a plan for renovation,” said Wilson.   “With the exception of the two new buildings, all of our halls are over 50 years old, and therefore cannot provide the amenities or comfort that today’s student requires.”

Written by Samantha Villanueva, Staff writer.