Magnolia preps for open, requires Bruin Hills demolition

Once she finishes exams, Diana Wells-English said she has some major packing to do before she can leave campus.

After four months living in Bruin Hills, the junior nursing major will have to move out of her apartment that won’t exist when she returns to Belmont in January.

Wells-English is one of several residents in three Bruin Hills buildings that will be torn down before the Spring semester begins. These students will also be some of the first to move into the new apartment-style residence hall still under construction.

The building, tentatively named Magnolia Hall, is slated to open for move in on Thursday, Jan. 3.

The hall is nearly a carbon copy of Dickens Hall that it will sit adjacent to, said Rebekah Stewart, the assistant director for upperclassman living. The apartment-dorm building will have four floors of apartments complete with kitchens and separate bedrooms.

“This hybrid style of housing has been our most popular,” Stewart said. “We found students want the ability to have their own bedroom and shut the door.”

After already living in an apartment for a semester, Wells-English is somewhat optimistic about the move. She was impressed with the building when she toured it this week, and hopes it has the amenities her decades-old Bruin Hills building doesn’t.

“The apartments are really big. The new ones are really nice,” she said.

The age of the building, however, doesn’t mean she won’t miss some parts of living in an apartment on campus.

“I’m expecting it to feel more like a dorm,” she said. “You have a front desk, you have an RA, you have to check people in.”

The three Bruin Hill buildings needed to go to ensure the right utilities would be in place for Magnolia, Stewart said. During the demolition, the office of residence life will be preparing for the opening of the hall, something that doesn’t typically happen in January.

“We’re in the mindset to close down for the semester, not open,” Stewart said. “It’s been a different mindset for sure.”

This mix of upperclassmen residents and incoming transfer students will make up the “soft open” for the hall in January. Stewart expects the hall, which can hold about 200 students, to be at 40 percent capacity next semester.

At an question and answer session earlier this week, President Bob Fisher said the hall would be open only to sophomores, like Dickens, in the future.

The Bruin Hills residence staff will also manage the Magnolia building for the near future. Stewart confirmed that the rest of Bruin Hills apartments will also be torn down, although she said a time-line for the demolition is not set.

“For now, we still need the space,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the changes are part of eventual changes that will affect the upperclassman living areas east of 15th Avenue South. After years of having upperclassman housing consist only of Bruin Hills, Hillside and Belmont Commons, Stewart said further upperclassman housing development and a potential student services area is also in the works, but doesn’t have a timeline for development yet.

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