The University of Michigan will develop the first new Central Campus housing for first-year students in decades by adding a 2,300-bed residence hall and dining facility on what is currently Elbel Field, between East Hoover Avenue and Hill Street.
The plan now being developed also calls for the Michigan Marching Band’s Elbel Field practice facility to be relocated to the university’s South Fifth Avenue property one block north with other open space. U-M bought the 6.1-acre former site of Fingerle Lumber in 2018.
The Board of Regents voted unanimously in favor of the housing and marching band plan Dec. 8 when it approved a $6.5 million initial planning contract with Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The housing plan will be developed to align with the university’s stated carbon neutrality goals.
The firm is charged with coming back to the board Feb. 16, 2023, to present a schematic design for the housing and dining facilities consistent with the character of other Central Campus residence halls. A plan for the new marching band practice facility also will be presented then, along with a construction schedule and budget for the overall project.
President Santa J. Ono called the project essential to meeting growing student demand for affordable, on-campus housing. “We want to make sure all first-year students who want to live on Central Campus are able to live there,” the president said.
“Since 2004, undergraduate enrollment has increased by more than 8,000 students, yet on-campus housing has simply not kept pace,” Ono said. “Adding more on-campus housing capacity also will ensure more equitable access to affordable housing for those who need it.”
Board Vice Chair Sarah Hubbard said the vote represents the regents’ support for a comprehensive housing plan that addresses the need for Central Campus housing, as well as the housing needs for students who choose to live on North Campus.
Earlier this year, plans were approved for a new residence hall on North Campus, but the university paused that work to focus first on the need for housing on Central Campus.
Although the university added North Quad in 2010 and the Munger Graduate Residences in 2015, the last Central Campus residence hall intended to meet the needs of first-year students was the Oxford Houses, which opened in 1963.
“We’ve fallen way behind the growing demand from undergraduates who want to live on campus beyond their freshman year,” said Martino Harmon, vice president for student life. “This fall, more than 2,300 students were turned away from campus housing due to lack of capacity and we know the desire to live on campus, especially among undergraduates, is significantly higher than the applications might suggest.”
The prospect of a new marching band practice field that continues to honor the Louis Elbel name, while creating a practice facility that moves the band into the future, is exciting to John D. Pasquale, who has directed the 400-member Michigan Marching Band since 2013.
“As this process moves forward, we are confident the Michigan Marching Band will have incredible, best-in-class facilities that will allow the band to continue its unparalleled tradition and legacy well into the future,” Pasquale said.
The new location of Elbel Field also will allow the field to be oriented in a north-south direction, consistent with Michigan Stadium.
Louis Elbel is the composer of “The Victors,” which he wrote in 1898. The field was named in his honor in 1977 at the request of the Michigan Marching Band and the School of Music, as it was known at that time.
Today, the university can house 11,353 students in university housing. That includes 8,960 undergraduates and 2,393 graduate students. Among the undergraduates living on campus, 76% are first-year students.
The reasons for increasing the number of students able to live on campus go well beyond meeting demand and affordability.
Research shows that undergraduate students who live on campus are more likely to engage in academic activities relative to their off-campus peers, Harmon said.
“These activities improve retention rates, academic engagement and feelings of belonging to the university community. They address our students’ sense of well-being and that makes them more successful,” Harmon said.
Harmon also said more on-campus housing should help ease market pressures for undergraduate and graduate students who prefer off-campus housing in the community.