Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

December 9, 2023

Board of Trustees approves plans for Westerlin renovations

Augustana’s Board of Trustees approved architectural plans for Westerlin Residence Hall earlier this month, which include air conditioning in dorm rooms among other renovations for the building.
The trustees, after viewing a demonstration room of what a new Westerlin dorm room will look like, approved up to $12 million to be spent on renovations within the residence hall. Augustana President Steven Bahls said the decision to make Westerlin the college’s next renovation project was decided with careful consideration.
“The board members were very, very impressed with the demonstration room,” said Bahls. “So I think there’s a sense that this is very necessary and something we want to get going on right away.”
Renovations will only be in the summer, starting in 2015, and Bahls projects the renovations will take about 5 summers.
The residence hall will be more energy efficient with new insulation and heating systems with more control, as well as new ceilings, cabinetry, plumbing, roofing and bathroom renovations.
“The college is evaluating whether we should continue to hardwire those rooms for computer usage or whether we should enhance the Wi-Fi,” said Bahls. “(There are) still a lot of questions to be answered, but we want to have much better reliability and speed for our Wi-Fi system.”
The fitness center in the former Westerlin Dining Hall is the first phase of the project. Portable air conditioner units currently in the center will be removed once air conditioning is installed in the entire building. The board will decide when to install air conditioning in either January or May, when they meet for the next trustees meeting.
The board will decide on next year’s tuition in December, but decided that financial aid cannot be cut, therefore tuition will not be cut.
The board also discussed renovation in the College Center and Bergendoff Hall of Fine Arts, which Bahls said is not as far along as plans for Westerlin renovation. There is not a set date for these renovations.
Bahls said the board approved the college to begin designing conceptual diagrams within the College Center.
The main level and upper level of the College Center will potentially be renovated into a theatre complex.
The college has begun working with Phil McKinley, the former director of Broadway’s “Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark” and an Augustana alumnus, to design the new Potter Hall.
“We’re pretty excited to have a Phil McKinley designed theater,” said Bahls. “The task now is to try to raise the money for that and I would aspire to raise the money for that in the next couple of years. My hope is that the freshman class would be able to enjoy a new theater by the time they’re seniors.”
The ceiling of the main level in the College Center would be removed for a theatre double the size of the current Potter Hall, located in Bergendoff. The Board Room would be turned into the Black Box Theatre and there would also be an outdoor theatre on the patio.
The project in the College Center would cost $3-4 million and would replace the theatre facilities currently in Bergendoff.
“The vision is to have an entertainment complex at the intersection of 7th Avenue and 38th Street, and that would be a very public corridor of Augustana College,” said Bahls.
Junior Aubrey Waddick, vice president of Alpha Psi Omega, said while Potter Hall has its benefits, it has a small ceiling, and the scene and costume shop are far from the theatre.
“It’s also worse because it’s not necessarily built to be a theatre,” said Waddick, a political science and economics major. “They’ve fitted it to be one. So there are some aspects that could make it better.”
Waddick said the amount of space in the new Potter Hall in the College Center would be beneficial, “which would be great, because then you could have varying depths of stage, and there will also be more room for movement and storage.”
Junior Luke Currie, president of Alpha Psi Omega, said he would prefer the theatre department to be in its own building.
“Right now, Bergendoff is the music and theatre building, but people like to think of it as the music building,” said Currie, a theatre and computer science major. “As of right now, (there are) a lot of spatial conflicts happening with music and theatre wanting the same areas.”
Bergendoff would also receive renovations with heating, air conditioning and electrical systems. A few smaller performance venues for recitals and small musical productions would potentially be added, as well as an art gallery.
The renovations in Bergendoff and the College Center would total between $13 and $15 million, and will not start until at least half of the money is raised by Bahls or collected from donations. If at least half of the money is not raised, the project will be postponed indefinitely.
“So we need to create a vision for how it is going to enhance student opportunities,” said Bahls. “That’s the only way to raise money. The donors will not provide the millions needed for this unless they feel the students will be better served.”
The college also has a reserve for appreciation, in which the college sets aside $4-5 million a year for repairing buildings as they wear out.
“It is the view of the administration that these buildings have to be done, not by borrowing money and then increasing student tuition,” said Bahls. “But instead we need to live within our means, which means using this reserve for appreciation as well as donating money.”

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Board of Trustees approves plans for Westerlin renovations