Students can expect a number of changes on campus over the summer and over the next few years as a part of the university’s ongoing Master Plan. Many of these projects will affect the university’s residence halls, most notably the demolition of Helen Ferris Hall this summer.
“A lot of our facilities and infrastructure are 50 or 60 years old,” said Michael Hughes, Associate Vice President of Ferris’ Physical Plant. “I tell people it’s kind of like tires on your car. The car is still in good shape, but the tires wear out, so every so often you have to replace them—and every so often you have to replace the car. So as the buildings get older, we do what we call facility condition assessments where we have professionals come in [and] evaluate the building.”
Named after the wife of Ferris founder Woodbridge Ferris and erected in 1956, Helen Ferris Hall is the oldest standing residence hall on campus. After serving the student population for nearly 60 years, the university is finally ready to say goodbye to the building. Grass and sidewalks will take up the space where the hall once stood.
Some students are feeling nostalgic about parting with Helen Ferris, including Corey Nichols, a junior architecture and sustainability major who lived in the hall this past school year.
“Helen Ferris is the hall students strive to live in,” Nichols said. “It’s close to all classes, has a nice venue [north quad], and it’s right next to food. Helen Ferris is a hall that is well worth keeping. The community built in the hall as well as the connections made have been more of an experience in any housing situation.”
Scheduled for renovations this summer is Cramer Hall, an 11‐story suite‐style residence hall built in 1969. In May, all 10 of the building’s residential floors will be equipped with new moveable furniture and updated tile and paint jobs.
Up until now, the hall has had built‐in closets and desks, making it difficult for students to rearrange their suites to suit their own preferences. Future residents will have more control over how their space is configured.
Some non‐housing‐related renovations this summer will occur in the Prakken Building, a classroom and administrative building that has served the university since 1955. The building has not had any significant updates in the past 25 years. College of Business room 111 will also be renovated this summer. It currently serves as a classroom but will look more like an auditorium upon completion, fitted with a new projector and better audio.
Over the next several years, the university will see many more changes to its student housing accommodations. Next summer, the South and East Campus Apartments are scheduled to be demolished. When the H and K East Campus buildings are gone, the plan is that parking for the Student Rec Center will be expanded.
Hughes estimates that all student housing will eventually be updated and located on the southeast corner and west side of campus, which would entail the removal of many of the university’s residence halls, including Clark, Hallisy, Taggart and Vandercook Halls. Tentative plans are in place to build a new Virtual Learning Center in Vandercook’s place.
Unlike most of the university’s academic buildings, many of the residence halls have very thick concrete walls and floors, making them difficult to renovate. Instead of simply updating the existing buildings, most of them will need to be taken down and replaced.
The Physical Plant is currently working with a consultant to determine the future of on‐campus housing. Before any plans for new buildings can be made, it is necessary to project what models of university housing future students might prefer.
“Other institutions are building traditional residence halls,” Hughes said. “University of Michigan just opened a major project where they have something like 15 or 20 students living in an apartment. I can’t imagine that being popular on our campus. Things we know about our campus population is that our East Campus Suites and our West Campus Apartments sell out fast and first, so that model seems to be popular with our students.”
Other construction projects on the Master Plan include an addition to Ewigleben Sports Complex, a repurposing of West Side Cafe, a partial closure of North Campus Drive and the demolition of Taggart Hall.
More information on Ferris State University’s Master Plan, including drafts of the 2015 plan, can be found at ferris.edu/master‐planning.