University of Wyoming leaders will make a final decision on where to place more than $300 million worth of new dormitories “hopefully by January 2020,” Vice President for Student Affairs Sean Blackburn said Thursday.
The state Legislature approved a bill last week that will allow UW to access enough capital to build dorms that can house 2,000 students.
The bill outlines areas on the west side of 15th Street for new dorm construction. However, the boundaries in the bill are broad enough to given the board of trustees some discretion on dorm siting.
The bill also changes the structure of the task force that’s been convened to oversee the dorms’ construction.
In 2018, the task force had been controlled by the Legislature. A revised version of the task force will add a representative from the city of Laramie while handing responsibility of organization the task force to UW.
During a Thursday town hall meeting at the Wyoming Union, Blackburn said the task force will likely work through the spring and summer to put together a plan on beginning dorm construction.
The new timeline means construction will begin at least a year later that some members of that task force had expected in 2018.
“The dirt could be flying next spring or next summer,” House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, said in August.
One issue that prevents dorm planning from moving forward quicker is the fact that UW is currently only 10 weeks into a year-long master planning process.
The university had adopted a long-range master plan in 2009, but has now hired a consulting firm to create a new 20-year plan.
Neil Theobald, vice president for finance and administration, said that he and members of the consulting firm, Massachusetts-based company Sasaki, have now visited Sheridan, Rock Springs and Lander to gauge Wyoming residents’ sentiments concerning UW.
Theobald said that the impeding master plan will envision a campus that reflects the state.
“We want to know that when you come here, you know you’re in Wyoming — you’re not in New York or Kansas,” Theobald said.
That idea will impact the design of new dorms, he noted, saying it doesn’t serve students well from rural areas to “put them in a 10-story building with hundreds of other people.”
Under House Bill 293, which allows the university to move forward with construction, no new dorm building can exceed six stories.