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Northwestern University has broken ground for a new residence hall at 560 Lincoln St. — launch its first new construction in a housing master plan designed to improve the on-campus student living experience.

School officials say it marks a major milestone in the implementation of the university’s master plan for upgrading student housing, a project involving multiple building renovations and the construction of five new residence halls over the next decade.

The student a cappella group THUNK performed a Daft Punk song at the groundbreaking Friday, where trustees, staff, faculty, students and parents gathered in a bright, festive tent on a brisk afternoon. The event was held at the site of what will be the first residence hall the University has constructed since 2002.

“Northwestern is a world-class university, and its living and learning environments should be world-class, too,” said Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for student affairs. “Our students have told us that improving on-campus housing is one of their top priorities, and, by working closely with them, we’re accomplishing this goal.

“We surveyed them, and we have been listening,” she added. “I can’t wait to come back to this site in 2017 to see how our creative and collaborative residents are using the new building.”

As part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, the University is working to enhance the campus community and the well-being of all students. The new residence hall at the north end of campus will rise on the site of the old “Peanut Row” of fraternity houses, which were demolished in 2012 and the fraternities moved to other locations on campus.

Located just north of Kemper Hall, the new building has been designed to reflect the nearby architecture and campus character, while having a modern and functional floor plan and suite-style housing. It will feature ample study, meeting, social and common lounge space intended to foster a sense of community, encourage dialogue and spark innovation.

The multi-story residence hall will have 422 beds, multi-purpose rooms, lounges with large glass windows — some of them overlooking Lake Michigan — in a 140,000-square-foot building. Construction is expected to begin in early December, with occupancy expected in fall 2017.

Approximately 4,000 students, or half of Northwestern’s undergraduates, live in residence halls. The halls are critical to enriching the Northwestern experience. Ideally, officials say, they are the harmonious spaces where students unwind after a long day to rest, talk, study, learn and innovate together as well as meet fellow residents with whom they may form lifelong friendships.

Jack Heider ’17, president of the Residence Hall Association and a junior from St. Louis studying chemical engineering, also spoke and offered a current student’s perspective on campus life and how important new and improved residence halls are to the students.

“I felt completely unprepared when I came to Northwestern. It was nothing like my high school, and I truly felt out of my depth,” Heider said. “I really only began to feel like I belonged after making friends with the other freshmen I lived with in Sargent Hall. I realized that I was living with dozens of people who had similar issues.

“To me, that’s why the residence halls are so important: They give you one of your first and most lasting networks of support and friendship at Northwestern,” Heider added. “I owe some of my happiest memories and closest friendships to the three halls I’ve lived in, and I know many other students do as well.”

Telles-Irvin thanked numerous people whose work has been instrumental in shaping the housing master plan and helping make it a reality, and she especially credited President Schapiro, “for being such a champion of all of the things going on here today.”

She also singled out two key people on her team whose leadership has been critical on the project: Paul Riel, executive director of residential services, and Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, associate vice president for student affairs.

“By the time the plan is completed a decade from now, we will have renovated 11 residence halls and built five new ones,” Telles-Irvin told the group at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We’ve already completed the renovations of several residence halls — either renovated or refurbished already. We are working on three more this coming year.

“The improvements have been embraced by students,” she said.

After their remarks, Telles-Irvin and Heider, along with Payne-Kirchmeier, Riel and trustees Gordon Segal and Steve Cahillane, donned hard hats and went outside the tent for the formal groundbreaking, using ceremonial shovels to turn over the dirt on the site of the new building.

Over the next 10 years, the housing master plan will improve vital campus spaces for students and contribute to a stronger Northwestern experience.

Under the leadership of student affairs, the University has been developing the housing master plan since 2012. It encompasses previous studies and follows the work of Northwestern’s Evanston Campus Framework Plan unveiled in 2009 that set a framework to guide the future development of the Evanston campus.

The housing master plan focuses on improving the student residential experience through a combination of renovation and new construction projects that will reposition housing offerings to meet student market demand and increase on-campus undergraduate capacity.

In addition to 560 Lincoln, four other halls — two slated for the north end of campus and two for the south end — will add more state of the art housing facilities to the campus.

The plan also includes full renovations for the following residence halls:

  • 1835 Hinman
  • East Fairchild
  • Foster-Walker Complex
  • Goodrich House [Currently under renovation]
  • Jones Residential College
  • North Mid-Quads [Completed]
  • Public Affairs Residential College (PARC) [Currently under renovation]
  • Shepard Residential College [Currently under renovation]
  • South Mid-Quads [Completed]
  • West Fairchild
  • Willard Residential College

The housing master plan work started in fall 2013 and is expected to be completed in fall 2025.

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