As a requirement for all freshmen, most UNC students receive the on-campus residential experience at some point during their time at Chapel Hill.
Through renovations and new developments of on-campus housing, the university seeks to balance student needs and affordability.
But as the campus has aged, dormitories across campus have undergone minor renovations in recent years, such as: B. Central air improvements, new windows and new tiles.
“They (the buildings) are very beautiful in some cases, but it’s a smaller space than you would otherwise probably want to share with another human being,” said Allan Blattner, executive director of Carolina Housing. “But we have to take that experience and incorporate it into the Carolina experience for our students.”
In the summer of 2019, the window units at Stacy Residence Hall were replaced with a centralized HVAC system, and Joyner Residence Hall received the same upgrade the following summer.
Between May and September 2022, UNC also replaced washers and dryers across campus.
More robust plans were part of the university’s 2019 master plan, which included a variety of construction and design plans over a 15-year period. Facility Services’ planning and design department developed the plan with input from Carolina Housing.
“One of the difficult things about the master plan is that the work that we have to do in the buildings can no longer only be done in the summer. We did most of these projects,” said Blattner.
Part of the master plan is the South Campus’ Odum Village, a former graduate housing complex that has since been partially demolished and left uninhabited. The land on which the complex is located is intended to be part of the “Campus South Hub” zone outlined in the master plan.
The plan was due to be discussed further and implemented more broadly in 2020, but was delayed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Attention has shifted to more short-term, immediate needs to keep people safe and to try as best we can to keep people healthy,” said university architect Evan Yassky.
Carolina Housing’s profits depend on student fees being reimbursed during the pandemic, which had a significant financial impact that prompted Carolina Housing to reevaluate original renovation plans.
“Is (the plan) still the right way to do it? Part of that is an assessment of ‘Have the needs of students changed because of the pandemic?’” said Blattner. “In some ways they have and in some ways they don’t.”
Hoping to continue the master plan’s intentions, a general modernization of Avery Residence Hall is the next major residential development.
Construction is scheduled to begin in May 2024 and will require Avery to be “offline” for 12 to 15 months. Renovations include central air conditioning and accessible facilities such as an elevator and accessible showers.
Parker and Teague Residence Halls could also be renovated, similar to Avery, or demolished and replaced with new buildings with additional floors, Blattner said.
Carolina Housing aims to support students’ transition into college life with on-campus housing needs for their first few years. This allows students to be more involved in the UNC community and have easier access to a university’s resources.
About 40 percent of undergraduate students live on campus, according to the Carolina Housing Strategic Plan. Blattner said on-campus living can offer a level of convenience and flexibility that the off-campus market lacks.
“I think if I were farther away my motivation to go to class would drop significantly,” said Cameron Neale, a sophomore living at Kenan Residence Hall.
Neale also cites affordability and proximity as motivations for continuing to live on campus. She said sporting events and friends at other dorms are always within walking distance.
Some students say it may also be easier to live on campus for another year than to find roommates and an apartment or house before winter break.
“I have a feeling as you adjust to your classes you just aren’t ready to commit to something like this. So you’re living back on campus,” said Connor Lee, a first-grader who lives in Graham Residence Hall.
And while some students enjoy living on campus, others have not had such a pleasant experience. Other on-campus accommodations struggle with maintenance issues like broken elevators, lead water, and cleanliness.
“It’s a unique time. I really hope students continue to see the value in it,” Blattner said. “That the experience is uniquely collegial and uniquely Carolina.”
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