VCU has set its sights on a new multi-million dollar project: the renovation of Ackell Residence Center.
The renovations are currently budgeted at approximately $7.5 million. The building, an upperclassmen apartment-style residence hall, has not had significant renovations since it was built in 2001.
Allison Patel, assistant director of facilities at the VCU residential life and housing office, said the renovations will be primarily cosmetic, focusing on replacing kitchen appliances and surfaces, light fixtures, flooring and furniture.
Patel said the traditionally 12-month residence hall, which offered only 9-month leases in the 2015-2016 school year, will experience its first wave of renovations in May 2016. The second wave will take place the following summer.
According to Patel, the project was not prompted by significant student complaints of the building but this is a proactive effort to replace appliances and fixtures that are out of date.
Funding will primarily come from rent paid by students living in VCU housing. Currently, housing prices are not expected to increase following the Ackell renovation project.
Rebecca Luu, a senior who has lived in Ackell for the last three years, said some students are worried about how the renovation process will affect their current living situations.
“I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about them making it difficult for upperclassmen to keep their rooms and stay living on campus,” Luu said.
Luu also said some of the appliances in the residence hall are already in need of repair.
“The agitator on our washing machine this year wasn’t actually attached,” Luu said. “The first time I tried washing sheets, I noticed it wasn’t making any noise and just saw it floating with the rest of the laundry. Our microwave handle this year was also broken and just hanging by the top.”
While these are just a few of Luu’s concerns, in addition to what she said is a poor Wi-Fi connection in the back hall of the building, Luu said not every room in the dorm has issues that need such repairs.
“I guess it’s hard to picture what they are going be renovating specifically when not every room is going to have problems,” she said. “It’s probably just because it’s faster to replace everything than go to every room and check what works and what doesn’t at this point.”
The project is one of several recently funded construction efforts across campus. Along with the $50 million Cabell library expansion, the university also recently funded the new West Grace Street Housing Centers, and has begun work on the new 41,000-square-foot Institute for Contemporary Art on Broad Street.
The new Grace Street Housing was completed and opened for residency in August 2015. The opening of the ICA was pushed back to 2017 following design modifications.
Megan Corsano, Contributing Writer