Master Plan Brings Big Summer Changes
Saint Mary’s students can expect to see big changes to the west side of campus during the summer months this year.
Large deconstruction of campus buildings on the other side of Highway 14 will occur by the time students return to school in the fall. The affected buildings include Watters Hall and the Ek Family Village, often referred to by students as “The Old Village.” These changes are part of the university’s “Master Plan,” which was created in the fall of 2014.
Saint Mary’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Pyle, Ed. D., confirmed that the university will move forward with the demolition of Watters Hall, soon followed by the tearing down of most of the Ek Family Village once the seminarians, who are currently living in Watters Hall while the Immaculate Heart of Mary is being remodeled this year, return to the seminary this spring.
“It doesn’t make sense to rehab or expand the Ek family village or Watters,” Pyle said. “They are past their life cycle.” The idea of a building’s life cycle is brought up in the Master Plan. Pyle said, “The Master plan gives us the idea to look at utilization, and some spaces are under utilized, so it doesn’t make sense to keep them if they waste power, electricity, or rooms to stay in.”
A few of the Ek apartments will be left to function as staff housing for those who commute between the Winona and Twin Cities campuses and/or for graduate student housing for those who live on campus. The rest of the newly cleared area will be left as “green space.” Pyle said that this is important because the Master Plan focuses on connectivity and how you build connectivity on a campus separated by a highway.
Pyle also said that students who are worried that there will not be enough room in the other residence halls once the Ek Family Village is torn down can rest assured that there will be plenty of space on campus for everyone. “We’ve done modeling of taking out the number of beds there and what that means for the campus,” he said. “It may get into questions of style and things of that nature, but there would be enough room.”
Student Senate President Joe Malino showed his approval for the demolition when he said, “It’s past due.” The former Ek Family Village resident said that he enjoyed his time living in “The Old” but that “the amount of money we pay, which is comparable to living in a newer residence hall like Hillside, is absurd for the current conditions of the village.”
The Master Plan is set in five year increments, and the current one has plans drawn up for the next 25 years. Saint Mary’s is 2.5 years into the current plan. This is not to say that any plans are set in stone. As Pyle said, “Some of the plan adjusts as funding adjusts, or as needs become more apparent.” The three key goals of the Master Plan are to build connectivity, enhance the campus’s assets, and make it a more welcoming environment.
Campus changes that have occurred so far due to the Master Plan, include upgrades to the baseball/softball fields, the renovation of St. Yon’s Hall, and the addition of the Science and Learning Center. A few of the longer term plans for students to look forward to include renovating the Hoffman, Brother Charles, and Aducci Complex, moving the International Student Center to Saint Mary’s Hall, and renovating The Heights as a residential living space. The university is also raising funds in order to one day enhance the outdoor track/soccer stadium facilities and the main entrance to campus.