By Jesse Bade (Staff Writer) The decision to close the residence halls of Liberty and Republic at the end of this academic year, including the subsequent plans to relocate Honors College housing and the Health and Wellness Center, was not made lightly according to the University’s vice president for facilities and operations, Joseph Barkwill.
“It wasn’t that we didn’t want to consider the renovations. It was everything that you [would have to] do. Okay, you have to consider the windows, but what’s the framing like for the windows?” said Barkwill. “[Then there’s] the cost for the infrastructure and wow, we are going to be putting a lot of money into this building that is already over 40 years old and well past its life expectancy.”
Following an inspection of the building and these cost considerations, Barkwill recommended that Hofstra should not bother renovating the building as it would cost millions of dollars to do so. Instead, Barkwill advised that further investments into the other residential halls on campus, mainly the townhouses, would be more realistic and efficient.
“You only have so many places that you can upgrade and you have to look at what is the best place to put your dollar,” said Barkwill.
Although the final decision to close rather than renovate the honors halls was not made until this summer, the discussion over Liberty and Republic’s future began three years ago. According to Barkwill, Facilities plans renovations three years in advance. Once the plans for the six tower renovations were set, the honors housing was entered into the discussion.
“As we implemented the tower renovations we said, ‘Okay, what is the next resident hall that we are going to tackle?’” said Barkwill. “You have to make that decision. Is it worth putting the money [for renovations] into an older facility?”
While weighing its options for the complex, Facilities and Operations considered a lack of work orders for the buildings as a reason to leave the buildings as they are. But as a reason for change, it considered that the style of its residential furnishing is out of date. Barkwill explained that the lack of structural complaints was correlated with a feeling of community that students seem to enjoy in the Liberty and Republic halls. However, the lack of official complaints against the complex did not mean that this temporary structure built in the ‘70s was not due for a renovation or replacement.
Barkwill compared the decision to buying your first car. After 10 years go by, you grow attached. However, parts for the car become outdated and expensive to replace. With the costs for parts, the upgrading of the car becomes more expensive than buying a new car.
Lynda O’Malley, the associate dean of students, and Warren Frisina, dean of the Honors College, worked to ensure that students who may have planned to homestead in Liberty or Republic Hall for Fall 2014 can still be accommodated into the new honors housing at Vander Poel Hall. While admissions are not decreasing and students still need residential housing, O’Malley said that there should not be a housing problem next year.
“Even if our enrollment was to increase and our residential population was to increase, we would still have ample space for everyone,” said Lynda O’Malley.
Barkwill also explained that after the Netherlands and Colonial Square are renovated, new housing options will be discussed if the University feels that they are necessary.
To preserve the Wellness Center that is currently housed in Republic Hall, an extension will be added onto the Continuing Education Building – located west of Hofstra USA – which will house a new Wellness Center for students.
As for the empty lot that will be left behind after Liberty and Republic are demolished, there are no definitive plans. Students living in Liberty and Republic will stay there until the end of this academic year and according to Barkwill, the building may be used for summer programs as well. Come Fall 2014, construction of the new Wellness Center will begin and a decision will be made about what to do with the space that is left.
“I think the intent is to garnish some ideas from students of what they want to see there,” said Barkwill.