JACKSON, Tenn. – Sept. 2, 2008 – Union University students will move into 14 new student housing buildings when they return to the campus for the fall semester this week, less than seven months after a powerful tornado destroyed much of the university’s existing student housing.
Incoming freshmen and transfer students will move onto campus Sept. 4, with upperclassmen returning Sept. 6. Classes for the fall semester will begin Sept. 8.
“We are delighted to announce that all of the 14 buildings will be ready by September,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “Our 10-year plan for replacing our student housing has become a six-month plan. Construction has proceeded ahead of schedule, and we are grateful to God for providing for us in this way. It is truly overwhelming to think about where we were on Feb. 6, and where we are now.”
The two-story residence buildings will replace the old Watters and Hurt complexes, which housed about 700 students and sustained heavy damage in the Feb. 5 tornado that caused an estimated $40 million in damage to the Union campus. None of the buildings in those two complexes was salvageable, and both complexes were demolished the week of Feb. 11.
On Feb. 22, Union broke ground on the new student housing complex. Original plans called for half of the 14 buildings to be ready by the start of the fall semester, with the other half to be completed by the spring semester in 2009.
But the two contractors working on the project -- Worsham Brothers Construction Co. of Corinth, Miss., and Brasfield Construction Co. of Jackson, Tenn. – managed to finish the task earlier than expected.
“This is highly unusual to complete a project of this magnitude as quickly as we have,” said Ken Brasfield, president of Brasfield Construction. “As I sit back and analyze what’s happened, I think Union’s need is what motivated the response. Everybody has had a total commitment and a passion to make sure that the job was completed by Sept. 1.”
The 14 new student housing buildings consist of about 158,000 square feet and will house 699 students.
The complex will ultimately consist of four “quads” with four buildings in each quad. The quads have been named Watters, Hurt, Ayers and Grace. Initial plans called for the completion of two quads, plus three buildings in each of the two remaining quads.
A men’s commons and a women’s commons building were originally planned to complete each of the final two quads, but university leaders have now decided to construct only one commons building. The remaining quad will be completed by a 15th residence building, which is under construction and scheduled to be completed later in the fall.
Construction on the commons building will likely begin during the fall semester.
The new student housing facilities are located in the former location of the Watters and Hurt complexes. The apartment-style suites in the new housing complex accommodate four students, each of whom will have a private bedroom. Each suite also features two bathrooms, a kitchenette and a washer/dryer. Each building in the complex contains 40, 48 or 56 bedrooms.
All downstairs apartments contain a safe room to provide storm shelters for students.
In addition to the 14 new buildings, the university has rebuilt two buildings – Gray and Dodd -- in the Heritage Residential Complex. MG Construction Co. was responsible for the reconstruction of those two buildings, which will house 78 students. MG also handled the renovation of Jennings Hall, which sustained heavy damage from the tornado. Jennings will reopen for the fall semester.
Stephen Lynch, president of Union’s Student Government Association, said that excitement is high among Union students who are ready to return to campus.
“I think that people have a lot greater appreciation for each other, and even for the material things,” Lynch said. “I think there will be an attitude of thankfulness and rejoicing.”
Union will hold a dedication ceremony for the new student housing complex on Sept. 12, following the annual fall convocation chapel service that begins at 10 a.m.