The University of Michigan is moving forward with a project that will dramatically reshape Central Campus housing with the addition of a 2,300-bed residence hall and 900-seat dining facility that will be ready for the first set of students in fall 2025.
The Board of Regents unanimously approved a facility plan that incorporates classic architecture and sustainability features at its Feb. 16 meeting. The estimated cost is between $490 million and $540 million.
“This state-of-the-art facility will address a palpable housing need for our first-year students, while connecting them more closely to our campus and community,” President Santa J. Ono said. “We’ve put great deliberation into how this space will best serve our students, while also drawing inspiration from U-M’s unique architecture and residential character.”
Robert A.M. Stern Architects presented the design along with a 3D model.
The action followed a decision in December to approve a $6.5 million initial planning contract with the architectural firm to develop the schematic design for the residence hall and dining facility on what is currently Elbel Field between East Hoover Avenue and Hill Street.
According to Robert A.M. Stern Architects, it will be the first Central Campus residence hall built specifically for first-year students since 1963 and will significantly alleviate a decades-long shortage of on-campus student housing.
The preliminary plan for the student residential portion includes five residence halls, ranging between five and seven stories, and a series of green courtyard spaces and quadrangles along a broad pedestrian walkway.
“The project will align sustainability with community well-being,” said Martino Harmon, vice president for student life. “Both of these goals are front of mind for us at every stage of this process.”
The facility is designed to advance U-M’s efforts to achieve universitywide carbon neutrality. The dining hall, for example, will use geothermal exchange systems for heating and cooling, as well as innovative all-electric equipment for cooking, making it one of the first all-electric facilities of its kind in the nation.
“We applaud the university for its commitment to decarbonize its built environment as a key strategy to achieve carbon neutrality as recommended in the final report of the President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality,” Voices for Carbon Neutrality shared in a statement.
VCN is a sustainability advocacy group composed of faculty, staff and alumni.
“It will be significantly more sustainable than any other building on the U-M campuses and is expected to be one of the most sustainable dormitories in the country. The specifications for this new building will raise the bar for all new U-M buildings going forward,” the statement read.
The facility also incorporates new energy-efficient building standards and solar panels on the roof. The complex is designed to earn LEED Platinum certification.
The ground floors of each building will include student support programs including lounges; multicultural, wellness, and technology services; and recreation and music practice rooms.
A final estimated cost of the facility will be presented for approval at the May 18 Board of Regents meeting, as many design elements will continue to evolve as the university incorporates student feedback into the project.
Geoffrey Chatas, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the university has engaged American Campus Communities in a preliminary development agreement to manage the project and meet the proposed project schedule for opening the dining facility and the first 1,300 beds by fall 2025.
The university will maintain full ownership and operational control of the new facilities and expects the remaining 1,000 beds to open by fall 2026, pending the board’s approval in May.
According to the design team, the residential buildings also will support the personal and academic growth of first- and second-year students and be organized in 30-bed communities, each featuring a shared community commons and a resident adviser’s room.
Residential floor plans call for 70% of traditional double-bed units and 30% of suite-style units. It will allow all first-year students who wish to live on Central Campus the opportunity to do so, and increases on-campus sophomore housing.
As the largest dining facility on campus, it will feature an entrance with broad arches at the base of a tower and include a double-height, light-filled dining hall. The second floor will have private dining, event rooms and a teaching kitchen that open to a rooftop courtyard.
Harmon said student input for the new facility continues to be critical to its success.
The Division of Student Life has hosted town halls with current on-campus residents to incorporate student feedback, including general interest in room layouts, amenity spaces, attached dining halls and outdoor spaces, as well as the manner in which students prefer to use each type of space.
“We are really taking a lot of time to gather input and listen to our students and experts to build something that will endure and have a positive impact by creating more spaces where students can find and make the sort of on-campus living community that speaks to them,” Harmon said.
Student feedback on the look and feel of spaces, including design elements, will be shared with university leadership and the design team.
Additional town halls are scheduled throughout March.
Phase two of additional on-campus housing
In addition to the new residential and dining facility, there will be a second phase to the university’s plan to add more student housing on Central Campus in the coming years.
“Amid rising housing prices in Ann Arbor and elsewhere, there is a critical need for additional, affordable on-campus housing options for students and we’re starting to plan for even more on-campus housing,” Chatas said.
Additional on-campus housing, currently under consideration, could be built on property north of Hill Street, including the U-M Sports Coliseum site and additional property along South Division Street between East Madison and Hill.
In anticipation of phase two of the housing project, the board has requested authorization to initiate the process of acquiring necessary property. Much of that property is now privately owned. Landowners in the area can expect a university representative to contact them soon.
Several properties have been acquired by Regent Ronald Weiser, a local real estate investor, who has said he intends to transfer ownership of those properties, at cost, to the university.
“This project would absolutely not be possible without the agreement, the expertise and the work of Ron Weiser who currently owns the vast majority of those properties and his willingness to turn them over to the University of Michigan with zero profit or benefit to himself,” Board of Regents Chair Paul Brown said.
Phase two of additional on-campus housing is planned to begin after the completion of phase one.
To proceed with the Central Campus housing and dining project, plans include relocating and designing a new Elbel Field one block north of the current field. The new field will provide a new $15.4 million practice and teaching facility — among the best in the nation — for the Michigan Marching Band.
The board requested more information before making a decision on relocating the Recreational Sports fields at the current Elbel Field site and will bring a proposal forward at a future meeting.
As the university continues to look at long-term on-campus housing, a previously approved North Campus housing project has been paused and will be reviewed as part of the university’s overall physical-campus planning efforts during the coming year, in conjunction with the universitywide strategic visioning process.