Two of the University of Wyoming’s dormitories, which had been planned for demolition, are now likely to stay in existence on campus for the long-term.
In 2017, Crane and Hill halls emptied and were planned to be the first of UW’s dorms to be demolished. Instead, in what House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, called an act of “providence,” those dorms could now be the only residence halls that remain once more than $300 million of new dorms are constructed.
Under the newest tentative plans, Crane and Hill would be refurbished to house offices for the 145 employees who currently work in Wyoming Hall.
UW plans to begin demolition on Wyoming Hall within the next year to make space for new dorms along the west side of 15th Street.
Matt Newman, a professor of practice and architect at UW, said the two dorms could hold about 400 offices.
As UW’s been weighing which, if any existing dorms to keep, Facilities Construction Management Deputy Director Matt Kibbon said he’s been trying to narrow down “which will cause the least amount of headaches.”
Crane and Hill “meet the structural building codes and the architectural features are similar to that on the rest of the campus,” Kibbon said. “Mechanically, the facilities have exceeding their useful lifespan, but I’ve talked to the guys in our electrical and plumbing shops, and those residence halls have the least amount of needs.”
Kibbon said they will need to update the buildings’ electrical outlets to be three-pronged, which would cost about $280,000 to upgrade all outlets in both buildings.
Crane Hall would also need some heating work and other repairs.
In total, Kibbon estimated that, once work begins, it would take six months to complete all the work needed for Crane and Hill.
“Subject to trustee approval, we could be looking at next spring for demolition of Wyoming Hall,” said Neil Theobald, vice president for finance and administration.
UW Police’s building is also slated for demolition. Theobald said the police department would also likely temporarily be housed in Hill or Crane.
Eventually, UW seeks to renovate other space, possibly in Merica Hall or the Bureau of Mines building, to house employee when Hill and Crane eventually return to their original use as student housing.
During last year’s planning of new dorms, President Laurie Nichols sought advice from numerous administrators from universities that had recently completed major overhauls of their dorms.
The biggest piece of advice she received from university presidents was to keep some old dorms to give students an option for cheaper housing. Last year, the task force eyed Orr Hall as the best candidate for cheap housing, but Crane and Hill are now seen as the best options, followed by Downey Hall.
The discussions about Crane and Hill came as part of the first 2019 meeting of the UW Housing Task Force on Wednesday.
The 2018 version of the task force was administered by the Legislative Service Office and was given the purpose of creating a funding scheme for the new dorms.
After the Legislature passed a bill this winter that gives UW more financial freedom to issue bonds for the construction, a new version of the task force was formed to oversee construction over the coming years.
The new task force is chaired by Harshman and Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie. Laramie Mayor Joe Shumway, along with numerous representative from UW, also sit on the task force.