UNC Asheville Begins Construction on Student Residences and Renovations to Highsmith Union in Spring 2017

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UNC Asheville student residences rendering provided by the designer, Hanbury.

UNC Asheville will start construction on new student residences and renovations to Highsmith Union in spring 2017. The student residences will be the first apartment-style housing on campus and increase available on-campus housing by 294 beds or by 20 percent when the project is completed in summer 2018.

The new student housing option will be built next to Brown Hall between University Heights and W.T. Weaver Blvd. Concurrent construction will take place on the other side of Brown Hall with renovations to Highsmith Union and the addition of a multipurpose room that will connect to the catering kitchen in Brown Hall.

“These two projects are critical to the continued enhancement of the quality of student life on our campus.  Each project will play a key role in delivering the kind of transformative student experience that is a hallmark of UNC Asheville,” said UNC Asheville Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Bill Haggard.

Highsmith Union rendering provided by the designer, Little Diversified / Workshop.

The Highsmith Union renovations will bring the student experience to the front and center of the building, which was constructed in 2004. A glass-front student-life porch will provide meeting spaces and open areas for student organizations, as well as an area to showcase a student art gallery and share the work of the Intercultural Center. Two fireplaces and a coffee shop will contribute to the warm and inviting atmosphere, and a 5,000 square-foot multipurpose room will increase the university’s ability to host campus and community events, from large lectures to banquets and conferences.

The newest student housing on UNC Asheville’s campus will add to the affordable on-campus housing options for students at a time when Asheville’s rental rates and occupancy rate continue to increase. The new residences will consist of multiple buildings, three- to four-stories each, with a variety of living options from four- to six-beds in an apartment-style suite. Complete with full kitchens in each apartment, laundry rooms on site, the residences will encourage collaboration and community and be staffed by a community director. Students will be steps away from their classes in nearby academic buildings.

The estimated costs of the projects are $12.4 million for the renovations to Highsmith Union and $33.8 million for construction of the six-building residence project.

Both the student residences and Highsmith Union renovation are self-liquidating projects. The Highsmith renovations are funded through the student debt service fee approved by the on-campus Fee Commitee, and the student residences are funded through room charges that have been market tested. Both projects have been approved by the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees, the UNC System Board of Governors, and the North Carolina General Assembly. State appropriations cannot be used to renovate or construct student unions or residence halls. Student input has been essential to both projects, from the fee discussions through the feasibility study, market study, student surveys, and workshops and community meetings.

“I've heard from many students who are looking forward to the improvements that these projects will bring to campus,” said UNC Asheville Student Government President and Student Trustee Charlie White. “The new residence halls will combine an apartment style floorplan that many students look for off campus with the convenience of living on campus, and the Highsmith renovation will revitalize the space that student organizations use to collaborate with each other and engage with the campus community.”

UNC Asheville will continue construction projects through 2018 and 2019 with renovations planned for Owen Hall and Carmichael Hall funded by the 2016 Connect NC Bond. These academic buildings have been in continuous use for 37 years and 50 years respectively, with no major renovations or improvements. The renovation project will allow UNC Asheville to rethink and reinvent these spaces so that they combine to facilitate collaboration among multiple academic disciplines across campus, giving students a competitive advantage as they join a modern workforce dependent on innovation and flexibility across disciplines.

The campus community will receive frequent updates throughout the construction process, and the university will keep the public informed as these projects move forward. Additional information including images as the projects progress will be available at facilities.unca.edu/construction. For more information, contact campusconstruction@unca.edu