By HANNAH GALEONE
The September 2018 Board of Visitors report announced that the University of Mary Washington will dedicate $10 million to the renovation of Virginia and Alvey Halls.
The $10 million that has been allocated to the update and refurbishment of the university residence hall comes from the sale of bonds through the Virginia Department of Treasury. This program allows public institutions to sell previously acquired bonds and use the sum to make renovations, updates and repairs.
“We pay the debt service on the bonds over twenty years, much like a mortgage,” said Dr. Juliette Landphair, vice president for Student Affairs.
Because Virginia Hall is a residence and not an academic building, it is not eligible for state-funded repairs or maintenance.
Virginia Hall will officially go “off-line” in the summer of 2020 and the project is slated to be completed in August 2021. Taking Virginia out of the rotation of habitable residence halls will allow the university time to finish the design process and complete the renovations.
Virginia will remain a freshman residence after the completion of the project.
When the university starts to analyze the process for residence hall renovations, they refer to the “Master Plan”, which outlines the use of each building on campus, the need for space and the strategic priorities of the university. This plan is also used to evaluate the sequence of buildings to be renovated.
“The challenge with the residence halls is that they’re beautiful, but they need a lot of attention,” said Dr. Landphair. “The idea [around the renovation] is to preserve the aspects of Virginia [Hall] that have existed since almost the founding of the university.”
The renovations to Virginia Hall will be similar to those being done in Willard Hall. These updates and repairs will retain the current double rooms, open spaces and large hallways, and include the addition of central air conditioning to the building. The goal of the university’s renovations to residence halls is to preserve the community first-year experience.
“The systems in the residence hall will be made healthy again,” said Dr. Landphair.
As word about the renovation spread around campus, students have formed opinions about the project.
“Virginia [Hall] could definitely use renovations, but I think [the school] should start fixing Jefferson and Bushnell first,” said junior historic preservation and religion major, Rick Altenburg. “They’re outdated and they leak when it rains.”
Some students also said that since many residence halls are currently shut down for repairs, the university should focus on living spaces for students.
“I definitely think that [the renovation] is a wise use of money,” said senior biology major Camille Wetmore. “There are a lot of dorms that are currently ‘down’ right now and they need to get dorms fixed as soon as possible for students to live in.”
“Housing is a big issue for Mary Washington, and considering that most of our buildings are historical, their upkeep is crucial,” said senior biology major Samantha St. John.
“As a historic preservation major, I worry about the historic integrity of Virginia Hall,” said Altenburg.
The University recognizes that the history and sentimentality of the resident halls on campus are important to students and says they will work as hard as possible to maintain the quality of the original designs and features.
“Residence halls are such a vital part of our life here,” said Dr. Landphair. “We want to design communities that encourage the making of friendships and connections.”