This spring, Furman University will begin its largest construction project to date, a comprehensive renovation of South Housing that will include building a new residence hall and updating four others in the complex devoted to first-year students.
The project will replace the current Blackwell Hall, relocate the Center for Inclusive Communities into the new hall, and introduce a host of modern amenities in the new and existing halls designed to support student success and belonging, enhancing the first-year experience for Furman students. A groundbreaking for the project will take place on Feb. 12.
Construction is expected to begin in March with students moving in by Fall 2023. The first students to move into the new residence hall will be members of the Class of 2027. The project will be funded through financing, and will cost $70 million, including approximately $31.2 million for the new first-year residence hall.
On Wednesday, Furman’s Business Block students, other students from accounting, economics and Furman’s Investments Club, faculty, administrators, financial advisors, underwriters and more gathered as the public auction for 30-year municipal bonds went live. Students also attended bond basics sessions led by Raymond James, underwriter for the bond issue, and PFM, Furman’s financial advisor.
Demolition of Blackwell Hall will begin in May 2024 and last through September. The building is named after Furman’s Gordon Williams Blackwell, an alumnus of Furman’s Class of 1932, who became Furman’s eighth president in 1965. Blackwell Hall was constructed in 1967 and remodeled in 2006. The university administration is discussing ways to continue to honor the former president.
In 2016, President Elizabeth Davis launched The Furman Advantage, a personalized four-year pathway that prepares students for lives of purpose and accelerated career and community impact. The Furman Advantage is characterized by a close partnership between Academic Affairs and Student Life, combining students’ in-class and out-of-class experiences. The on-campus experience fosters student belonging and connections to faculty and staff mentors, while guiding students to services that support their success.
The goal of preparing students for lives of leadership and purpose lies at the center of Furman’s new construction and renovation project, which is scheduled to be completed in November 2024.
“By reimagining the first-year residence hall from the ground up, we are creating a vibrant student hub, one with new personal and social spaces for students to gather and connect for years to come, setting their trajectory for success at Furman and beyond,” said President Davis. “This project enhances the safety, accessibility, security and privacy components of all the residence halls in South Housing, while also advancing the university’s sustainability goals.”
A new home for the Center for Inclusive Communities
The new hall will offer students greater opportunities to gather and build community, while creating more occasions for faculty and staff to visit South Housing.
The design will also provide ample space for the Center for Inclusive Communities, which will move from the Trone Student Center, to grow programs and initiatives, according to Deborah Allen, who served as the director of the CIC until last week and played a central role in the project’s early planning. The new building will include reception and office spaces, a kitchenette, meeting and lounge spaces and support services, and provide the entire campus easy access to the CIC.
“Now in its fifth academic year, the CIC continues to cultivate an inclusive and welcoming environment for Furman’s historically underrepresented students to thrive as their authentic selves,” Allen said. “Staff foster opportunities for students to engage with people from various cultures and identities and reflect deeply on their own intersecting identities.”
The center coordinates activities and events related to first-generation students, cultural heritage and awareness, inclusivity for the LGBTQIA+ community, the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others. Rod Kelley is serving as interim director while a national search is conducted.
“Early on, it was apparent our students, programs and initiatives would quickly outgrow the current physical space,” said Allen. “It is exciting to envision a new space, placing the CIC at the nucleus of a vibrant living and learning community.”
‘A residential village’
The renovations of residence halls Manly, Geer, McGlothlin and Poteat, and construction of the new residence hall will grow the overall total beds for South Housing to 718, ensuring the entire first-year class is housed in one location, an important foundational element of student success and belongingness.
The renovations will include several new safety upgrades, entrance accessibility, new bathroom layouts and fixtures, information technology improvements and new social spaces. An evaluation of Blackwell Hall determined that it would cost more to renovate the building than to replace it.
“The South Housing renovation and construction project will not only enhance the residential experience for first-year students, but will create a residential village that strengthens the connection to the core of campus, much like the Trone Student Center renovation and boardwalk provided a few years ago,” said Connie Carson, vice president for Student Life. “The first-year South Housing experience will better connect students to each other in the various halls while serving as a centerpiece for student activity both inside and outside residence halls.”
The lead design firm on the project is St. Louis, Missouri-based Mackey Mitchell Architects, which is partnering with McMillan Pazdan Smith, which has offices in Atlanta and the Carolinas. John Burse of Mackey Mitchell is the principal design architect and is based out of the firm’s Asheville, North Carolina, office. Kyle Wagoner and Marilee Hertlein are also principals.
The construction management company is Rodgers Builders, a women-owned firm headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The firm also managed the Townes Center for Science addition and renovation, which was Furman’s largest project to date. As part of this new South Housing project, Rodgers Builders will be contacting minority-owned businesses to perform some of the subcontractor work.
A projected timeline of the project
- Complete the design by January 2022
- Phase 1 – Construct the new residence hall, March 2022 – July 2023
- Phase 2 – Renovate Poteat and McGlothlin halls, May 2023 – December 2023
- Phase 3 – Renovate Manly and Geer halls, January 2024 – August 2024
- Complete the landscape and hardscape, August 2024 – November 2024