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WKU’s ‘First Year Village’ project moving forward, expected to open for students in fall 2021

Construction fences are up as Western Kentucky University prepares for the next step in the creation of the “First Year Village.”

Demolition of the exterior of Bemis Lawrence Hall will begin the first week of August to make room for the $48 million living learning complex. The cost of the project will be funded by the WKU Student Life Foundation, which gave its final approval in June. The project is part of a 10-year strategic plan to optimize the on-campus living experience for current and future students.

Mike Reagle, Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and Executive Director of Housing and Dining, said the First Year Village will connect students with similar interests with classrooms, study rooms, social spaces and living spaces. Two buildings will feature pod-style housing with about 25 students per pod who share amenities such as bathrooms, common spaces and a resident assistant.

“Students will also have faculty, staff and student mentors to help them navigate through the first year and matriculate successfully to the second, setting them on a path to complete their programs in a timely manner,” Reagle said. “It is important to connect the time spent in the classroom with the 150 hours students spend outside of the classroom to ensure they take full advantage of the WKU experience.”

The First Year Village includes two buildings. Building one will house 260 students while building two will house 375 students. All students will participate in living-learning communities and each hall will contain unique programming spaces, including classrooms, music practice and recording studios and more.

The design of the new halls features large windows in the community spaces, creating large “lanterns” for the south side of campus. A park-like green space will be located in the current Pearce Ford Tower parking lot, creating a greater community atmosphere.

Construction on the halls began in June prior to demolition work on Bemis Lawrence Hall, which is expected to be completed within 90 days. Barnes Campbell Hall will be razed in the fall of 2021. Bemis Lawrence and Barnes Campbell opened in 1966 and had reached the end of their useful service life.

The First Year Village is expected to open to students in fall 2021.

“We’re excited by this addition to our portfolio of housing options,” Reagle said. “The First Year Village fits well into the University’s Strategic Plan by providing the kind of experience that will make our students successful.”

From Western Kentucky University

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