SIU announces plans to vacate, demolish Schneider Hall

Cars+drive+past+East+Campus+housing+Sunday%2C+Nov.+20%2C+2016%2C+in+the+1000+block+of+South+Wall+Street+in+Carbondale.+%28Bill+Lukitsch+%7C+%40lukitsbill%29+

Cars drive past East Campus housing Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in the 1000 block of South Wall Street in Carbondale. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

By Luke Nozicka

The university on Thursday announced Schneider Hall will not house students in the fall as part of its plan to tear down the East Campus towers.

Before the building is vacated and destroyed, the university will rent rooms to people visiting Carbondale for the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, officials said in a news release Thursday.

Demolition of the tower on East Campus is step one in the university’s multi-million dollar plan to tear down Neely, Mae Smith and Schneider halls, collectively referred to as “the towers,” and replace them with new dorms over the next decade.

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In the news release, Jon Shaffer, director of University Housing, said Schneider will be decommissioned in the fall to remove items, such as furniture, from the building before demolition. The items will be used in other areas, such as the newly expanded undergraduate student apartments at Evergreen Terrace, officials said.

Shaffer said the plans are not finalized, and students living in Schneider will be offered other on-campus housing options.

Since August, the top three floors of Schneider have been empty as a result of decreased enrollment, particularly in the incoming freshman class. The hall at capacity can house up to 719 students, but 385 students live there now, according to the news release.

The announcement comes after the SIU Board of Trustees on Feb. 9 approved the authorization to solicit a public-private partnership to design, finance and construct two new residence halls at the Carbondale campus.

During the board meeting, Kevin Bame, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the university hopes to open a new residence hall by fall 2019.

The plan outlined at the board meeting proposes constructing four new five-story buildings, which will each have either two or three wings. Each wing will consist of no more than 18 students.

University officials have said this is an effort to make students feel less anonymous than they might in the three high-rises, which have the capacity to house 50 students on each on their 17 floors.

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Interim provost Susan Ford has said the new residence halls would carry a message of permanence, which would better help assure prospective students that the Carbondale campus will exist for at least several decades.

“No institution would launch something like that if they didn’t expect to be here for 12 more years and 20 or 30 more years beyond that to make use of those residence halls,” she has said.

In 2012, the university hired Brailsford & Dunlavey, a project management firm that works with higher education institutions during construction and renovation projects, to devise a master plan for the next 25 to 50 years of housing at SIU. The firm found that the nearly 50-year-old residence halls would either need extensive renovation or total reconstruction to last another half-century.

In a previous interview, Shaffer said maintenance of the towers costs about $2 million to $4 million a year on things like roof replacements, new plumbing, elevator repairs and carpet installation. The consultants found that renovating the towers would cost about $233 million, a 10 percent difference from the cost of constructing entirely new buildings.

Officials have said the housing construction plan will total $257 million. Student fees would likely increase at variable rates during the next decade to counter the cost of investment bonds that would be sold to fund the start-up costs of the project, according to the plan outlined at the December board of trustees meeting.

Before that meeting, SIU President Randy Dunn said the increase in fees is not likely to deter prospective students from enrolling at the university. He said it will “build the attractiveness of the campus as a whole.”

“Families today are willing to pay a price for something that’s seen as a good value,” Dunn said. “Right now, the towers aren’t seen as a good value.”

Staff writer Luke Nozicka can be reached at 618-536-3325, [email protected] or on Twitter @lukenozicka.

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