University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Last updated: Friday, 21-Feb-2003 19:45:53 CST

June 28, 2003


Groundbreaking for the first new residence hall at UW-River Falls in 40 years was hailed on Saturday (June 28) as a reaffirmation of the future of the University and its students.

Some 100 persons observed the ceremony, which included a symbolic shovel turning exercise by local legislators, architects and contractors, as well as University representatives.

The South Fork Suites is scheduled to open in June 2005. The $11.5 million facility will have 240 student residents housed in 60 suites, each consisting of four private bedrooms, one bath, a living room and a kitchenette. This type of arrangement is known as "transition living," because it is similar to apartment living, but it is located on campus.

Chancellor Ann Lydecker cited the exceptional growth of the St. Croix Valley as influencing the decision to build the residence hall as the student population continues to grow.

"You have only to look at the housing developments burgeoning in the region, to read about the economic development initiatives, to listen to discussions of a technology corridor down I-94 to realize that we must continually plan for the future—for the growth and development of the region, community and campus."

Lydecker noted that the importance of campus housing has changed dramatically over the decades as it now plays a central role in student life.

She also singled out students for praise, by noting that they have agreed to pay for the project in its entirety without a cost to taxpayers. According to Lydecker, the project will generate $6.7 million in regional purchases of construction materials supplies and materials, generate over 90 jobs in the construction and trades industries, and return over $353,000 in income taxes.

The design for the building was created by Wenzler Architects of Milwaukee. It reflects the architecture of South Hall, the oldest building on campus, which dates back to 1898. The residence hall will have a hip roof and tall, narrow windows, and it will be built of red brick and buff-colored stone, similar to that of South Hall and some other campus buildings.

Architect Ed Wenzler, speaking at a brunch, noted that the enthusiasm for the project is overwhelming. Typically, he said, the first meeting on a project lasts about three hours and gets absorbed in project details and he often has to act as a cheerleader to generate enthusiasm. At UW-RF, the first meeting extended over two days, and he recalled that he found the level of energy so high that he remarked, "I'm really going to have to work hard to catch up" with students and staff.

Jamie Wise, a junior marketing communications major from Farmington, Minn., and who serves as the chair of the Residential Living Committee, offered a student perspective during her remarks at the ceremony.

"Residence hall life means a great deal to each student," she said. "For many, such as myself, it has been a place where they define or decide who they are and who they want to be. It is also a place where many students meet their best friends or their future spouse; and it is those people that the students hang onto and remember for the rest of their lives.

"It's a place that becomes home to the students, a place where they feel they belong or always have a constant connection. Through programming by the residence hall staff and other campus events, students within those halls grow and learn together the lessons of everyday life; the things that are really going to make a long-term impact on their lives."

Wise noted that she recently assisted in enrollment activities for incoming freshmen and took parents and students on campus tours. Throughout, she related, she heard stories from parents about their experiences living in UW-RF residence halls.

"It's those stories that reinforce the fact that life in the residence hall is an incredible experience and something students will remember for the rest of their lives," she said.

Also speaking were State Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson, and Rep. Joe Plouff, D-Menomonie.

Rhoades, a UW-RF alumna and a member of the Foundation Board, drew chuckles from alumni in the audience, when she related that as she listened to Wise's remarks it led her to recollect her own residence living and student leadership experiences.

The dedication of students to planning and funding the new facility, she said, "shows our commitment and what we can achieve when we work for the success of our students, our campus and our community."

She said the South Fork Suites will "help to maintain UW-RF as a world-class institution that will continue to help shape the campus and the St. Croix Valley."

Plouff particularly praised the students for agreeing to fund the facility.

"I can't begin to tell you how impressive that is," Plouff said. "I know it wasn't an easy decision to commit fees toward a project that many of the current students will likely never use. But that action reveals the depth and breadth of the character and vision of UW-RF's student body."


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