Summer plans laid for student apartments, outdoor plaza

Beginning next winter, the UAA residential campus will have a winter village to call its own, minus the five-star restaurants and gondolas.

Suspended LED globe lights in the Main Apartment Complex (MAC) plaza and across West and East Hall trails will enhance safety and aesthetics of the area, according to UAA Housing, Dining, and Conference Services director David Weaver.

“We want to create something that is really breath-taking, and we are going to spend the money, we’re going to do something really amazing,” Weaver said in an interview last semester.

A student returns to his residence hall from the Gorsuch Commons. The paths behind the commons will have all-new LED lights installed this summer that will cross perpendicularly above the trail. Photo credit: Nolin Ainsworth

Weaver spent the money, $900,000 to date, that will pay for not only the Winter Village project, but also full-scale renovations in two of the six student apartment units. Student rates will increase 4 percent, or $150 more per semester, added to the current $3500 per semester cost of a shared bedroom apartment.

The remaining four units will receive the upgrades over the next few years. The Winter Village is also an ongoing project — a fire pit and a plumbed gas grill are possible additions in the future.

“I think it will be a huge improvement and benefit to the campus to make that area much more lit, livelier,” Peter Briggs, landscape architect at Corvus Design said via cellphone. “Maybe on the nicer winter days, which we seem to get more of, more people will choose to go outside and have fun, not even at night, but when it’s dark.”

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A 900 square foot grid of suspended steel cables wrapped in globe lights will illuminate the rejuvenated MAC plaza. Currently, the small circular slab of concrete consists of a wooden bench and a rusted barbecue grill. The LED trail lights will be located on the other side of Chester Creek on the paths that connect the Gorsuch Commons to East and West Halls. Weaver hopes the lighting improvements are just the first step in drawing students outdoors.

Four structural poles will be installed this summer around the perimeter of the MAC plaza. The poles, around 11 feet high, will the grid of globe lights over head. Photo credit: Nolin Ainsworth

“If you think about when students are here, they are here from the late part of August and September through May,” Weaver said. “The vast majority of that part of time, there is snow of the ground, and so we want to embrace that, we want to make spaces where students can get out — get out of their rooms, socialize, recreate and enjoy the fairly mild winter climate we have.”

The interior design work on the apartments was headed up by Megan Lierman of RIM Design. The apartment units of MAC 2 and 4 will be receiving all new paint, flooring, kitchens and bathrooms. They will be the first MAC apartments to receive the bathroom and kitchen upgrades.

“Our big initial goals were to provide something that was pretty sturdy and had neutral finishes,” Lierman said. “That also would allow students to add accent finishes and make the space their own without what’s already in the building.”

According to Lierman, the renovated apartments will be a much more desirable living space. The opaque and brown tiled kitchen and bathroom counters will be replaced with solid-surface laminate, making them easier to clean. All new kitchen appliances and cabinets will also be installed, including an induction stovetop.

In the 2015-16 “Guide to Living On-Campus,” the stated mission of the housing and residence life programs is summed up in these words, “You Matter.”

The housing projects should get that message across loud and clear.