UW residence halls

Eric Webb, executive director of Residence Life and Dining Services, and Assistant Director Corey Peacock walk down a first-floor hallway of the empty Hill Hall on Friday afternoon at the University of Wyoming.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

University of Wyoming freshmen moved into the residence halls this week, but the campus’ two oldest halls remain vacant, and will likely never house students again.

These halls — now ghost towns where first-year students lived and studied for more than five decades — could be demolished as early as summer 2018.

University officials took Hill and Crane halls “offline” for the 2017-2018 academic year in anticipation of a 10-year housing study and plan — currently in the works — that could call for the demolition of Hill and Crane halls.

“That gives us our first ability to start moving on this housing plan,” UW President Laurie Nichols said.

“If they were full, we wouldn’t have that possibility. So, we’re starting to prepare ourselves.”

Most years, UW leaves one residence hall empty. This allows the university time to make upgrades and renovations to the halls without disrupting students and opens up space for other purposes, said Eric Webb, Residence Life and Dining Services executive director.

“We have had an excess of residence hall capacity since about 1990-ish,” Webb said. “We’ve always had one residence hall offline since that time, which sometimes we used for temporary office space.”

In 2016, Crane Hall was offline and remains offline now, though it was used for temporary office space as UW renovated or reorganized other parts of campus. For the 2017-2018 academic year, residence life opened up four previously empty floors in Downey and Orr halls, which allowed the university to close down Hill Hall as well. This limited students to the four Washakie halls — Downey, Orr, McIntyre and White — and the Honors House. The Washakie halls are so named because they are each connected to Washakie Dining Center via underground tunnels.

“In this particular case, based on the amount of students we have, we had enough space, enough capacity in our existing Washakie halls to handle the students coming in, so there’s no logic in necessarily spreading them out over an additional hall,” Webb said. “(It’s) just much more efficient to operate in the four Washakie halls versus using Hill or Crane.”

The housing plan, currently being developed by KSQ design, will evaluate UW’s housing situation and formulate a 10-year improvement schedule. The plan will be finished and presented to the Board of Trustees before the end of this calendar year, Webb said, but the administration is confident phase I of this plan will include tearing down Hill and Crane Halls to make room for other living-learning community facilities.

The students who lived in Hill Hall last year might end up being the building’s final residents.

“We don’t think (Hill and Crane) would be used again,” Webb said. “We don’t have any projects that I’m aware of on campus that would require a need for temporary office space or that type of thing.”

Now and for the foreseeable future, UW’s two oldest halls — and the dining area between them — sit empty, awaiting whatever fate the KSQ Design plan holds in store for them.

“Hill is currently still furnished and I think we’ll just leave it that way for a little while (to) make sure that that’s the outcome of this plan,” Webb said. “Most of Crane Hall — we’ve removed furniture from most of Crane Hall, (but) part of that is a result of the fact that we used it for office space.”

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