News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 6, 2012

ISU plans renovation of Sycamore Towers

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University is planning a major renovation of its Sycamore Towers student housing complex, which consists of four, 12-story buildings near the southwest corner of campus.

A complete renovation is planned over a four- to five-year period, with one building taken “off line” each year. The complex, located between Fourth and Fifth streets north of Cherry, was constructed in the 1960s.

On Friday, ISU trustees took the first steps toward Phase 1 of the project, which will involve a renovation of Mills Hall not to exceed $22 million. ISU hopes to keep the cost below that amount, said Diann McKee, vice president for business affairs and finance.

Trustees authorized the university to seek state approvals for the project, which is expected to start next summer, and they approved Ratio Architects to provide architectural/engineering services.

Funding would come from residence hall reserve funds and long-term bonds.

ISU had looked at various options as far as Sycamore Towers, including demolition of the towers with construction of new residence halls. It also looked at reducing the towers from 12 to seven stories, McKee told trustees.

The university has decided on renovation both because of cost considerations and the parking problems that would result with new construction, noting that ISU is “landlocked” in that area.

“In order to construct new housing, we would be taking out existing parking” for a long period of time, McKee said in an interview. That would put constraints on the parking system.

The Sycamore towers are structurally sound, but the interiors are antiquated in terms of meeting the wants and needs of today’s students, she said. “We feel it [renovation] is the best course,” she told trustees.

Each tower currently has 400 beds, and that would be reduced somewhat with renovation. The buildings would be air conditioned once renovation is complete

The Sycamore Towers project is part of a systematic upgrading of residence hall facilities at ISU. So far, about one third of ISU’s student housing has been renovated, McKee said. “Students today have different expectations of living arrangements” as well as different needs, including added electrical capacity for their computers and digital devices.

Other universities in Indiana are upgrading their housing as well, she said.

Trustees also approved a long-term, $30 million bond issue to finance two other previously-approved housing projects.

One is the ongoing renovation of Erickson Hall to return the building to its original purpose as a residence hall, while the second is a new housing facility on the north end of campus.

The Erickson Hall renovation is expected to be complete by August 2013. The overall cost is estimated at $10 million, with $1 million from residence hall reserve funds and $9 million from the long-term bonds.

When completed, it will have 260 beds, with double occupancy rooms.

Meanwhile, ISU will open bids for the new, so-called “North” residence hall next week,  McKee said. The goal is to begin construction later this month so that it is ready for occupancy by August 2014.

The new residence hall would have 352 beds and it would be located south of Lincoln Quad and the new Student Recreation Center in an area currently used for faculty/staff parking.

As originally proposed, it would consist of two, four-story complexes and is intended to provide small group housing for organizations such as sororities and fraternities.

The new “North” residence hall is estimated at $24 million, with $3 million from residence hall reserves and $21 million from the bond issue. The bonds are paid off through housing and dining service revenues.

Original bids for the new residence hall were too high and the project had to be re-bid, McKee said. The re-bid includes more alternatives and more flexibility.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or