You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Dorm renovation tab to reach $500M as University of Michigan plans $60M renovation of South Quad

By Kellie Woodhouse


Renovation plans for the University of Michigan's South Quadrangle residence hall include expanded dining facilities, refurbished lounges, updated bathrooms and the creation of group study spots, music rooms and other community hubs.

Courtney Sacco I

The eight-year tally for on-campus housing development at the University of Michigan will reach $500 million next year if the Board of Regents approves a $60 million renovation of its South Quadrangle residence hall.

U-M has spent $440 million to renovate eight dormitories and dining halls, including the current $116 million renovation of East Quadrangle, which is taking place this year. A refurbished Alice C. Lloyd Hall opened this year, after a $56 million investment, and has amenities and furnishings that rival the new luxury student high-rises popping up around Ann Arbor.

With another residence hall in line for a major upgrade, it's clear U-M is changing its standard for on-campus housing.

Yet the renovation of U-M's 1,180-bed South Quad dormitory won't be as sweeping as those in recent years. Most notably, it won't include a renovation of the dorm rooms, but will instead focus on community spaces.

Whereas up until now U-M has renovated residence halls in their entirety, South Quad's restoration will be limited to the building's first two floors. The renovation will address 106,700 gross square feet of the residence's 390,000 total gross square footage.

Plans include expanded dining facilities, refurbished lounges, updated bathrooms and the creation of group study spots and other community hubs. The building's infrastructure, including plumbing, heating, cooling, ventilation and fire systems, also will receive upgrades. South Quad was built in 1951 and in the early 1990s the hall's windows were replaced, library updated and elevators rehabilitated.

South Quad renovations likely will begin in the summer of 2013, U-M associate director for construction and design Jerry Schulte said in May. West Quad will follow and construction likely will start during summer 2014 and cost in the $100 million range, Schulte said.

In a memo to regents, university officials said the project is "part of the ongoing Residential Life Initiative," the program that backed more than $400 million of the residence life improvements since 2006.

Regents will decide whether to approve the renovation during their 4 p.m. meeting on Thursday at the Michigan Union.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman has called the initiative one of her top accomplishments since becoming president in 2002. Her employment contract specifically states that she is tasked with continuing the initiative in order "to improve university housing across the campus."

Many U-M dormitories were built between the 1940s and 1960s and have not received major renovations since. Prior to the initiative, more than 30 years had passed without major dormitory construction, Coleman said.

Although student housing is far from the only factor students consider when choosing a college, it is often a consideration when students have multiple top choices and colleges are now competing with one another to provide top-notch dormitories.

View South Quadrangle in a larger map

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

My son and I looked at all the state schools south of the UP back in 2004. At that time, Michigan did not fare well against most other schools in dorm quality. GVSU really stood out with topnotch dorms and by far the best food.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

again, I'm amazed people are choosing schools based on the quality of the dorms rather than the quality of the faculty. You need to get your priorities in order. You live in the dorms for maybe a year, and honestly the dorms at Umich aren't bad. Plus the food's pretty good. I'd rather get an education from one of the best public schools in the country than a small not so great school with nice dorms. And it's paid off for me in the long run--I'm being paid quite a bit to get my PhD, not bad :)


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 10:51 a.m.

The update program was long overdue. These investments will be good for decades.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

I lived in a dorm for my Freshman year only. It was difficult to study, as there were so many people coming and going at all times of the day and night. I opted to live off Campus. I didn't know anyone who lived in the dorms beyond Sophomore year, although (at the time) they were considered to be "luxury level." The U of M seems to have very deep pockets when it comes to building and renovations.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 3:19 a.m.

Thanks to the interest on the endowment.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:20 p.m.

Just getting rid of the smell in South Quad will probably run $10-20 million.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:55 p.m.

I have great memories of that place, but those probably need to be gotten rid of as well.

Kelly Cunningham

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

As we renovate our aging landmark residence halls we do it with an eye toward improving the outdated infrastructure (heating, cooling, electric, plumbing) while also creating more functional community and study spaces. This is exactly what our students deserve and expect of us. Kelly Cunningham, UM Public Affairs


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 11 p.m.

KIm---when your daughter finishes her studies she will have a Grand Valley State degree. Congratulations! However, she will most likely have to compete with those who have a UM or MSU degree. Good luck!!


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

BFA in fine arts is one thing, but speaking as someone in the sciences, where you did your degree, the quality of the faculty you did research with, and your undergraduate research experience matters. Science kids out of U of M and MSU are automatically better off than kids from GVSU or EMU, it's just a fact. Especially when it comes to getting into PhD programs.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:04 a.m.

Oh. I neglected to say he graduated from Eastern Michigan University.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

My son graduated with a BFA in Fine Arts, and has been employed ever since in his field. He now receives a six figure salary and a job in his film, and has bought his own home in Portland, Oregon. There are many great universities in the state of Michigan. We are blessed. However, the elitism of University of Michigan is not warranted. They are not, and never will be the Harvard, Princeton, or Yale of the Midwest.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:49 p.m.

MAN, that school has a lot of money. Anyone been adding up their whole building expenditures over the last, say, 6 - 8 months? Incredible.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

This year, the cost of living in a "standard double" is $9,750, which means that the U gets $19,500 for an eight-month rental contract on each standard double room. Annualized, that would be $29,250 per room per year, assuming the U collected rent from two people. For the same amount of money, I can cover my mortgage, the property taxes, food for a family of four, all utilities, the car payment and insurance for both the house and the car for a year. Just sayin'...

Jim Osborn

Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

These figures are flawed - The U of M doesn't pay property taxes! They get free fire protection from Ann Arbor. In the early 1980s, UCLA charged $400 a year for its dorms, plus another $1400 for board (meal plan). UC San Diego charged a similar rate, but had better dorms. Accounting for inflation, today this would be 1200 dorm, $4200 food, for a total room and board of $5,400, a lot less than the $9,750. Dorm costs, and tuition, have risen much faster than the inflation rate because of grants and loans. In the past, when families had to pay the fees directly each year, they would watch these costs much more closely, especially when students would work ther way through college, something impossible today. The state also contributes less.


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

kejamder, You use the annualized figure to serve as an accurate basis of comparison. If it helps you, the U is collecting $2,437 per month from dorm rooms alone. That's to say nothing of how much they're collecting on the tuition and fees per person. A resident student who lives on campus will spend $24K for a single year at Michigan. Over the course of four years, even with moving to less expensive housing at some point (because tuition increases for Upper Division students), a person could reasonably (unreasonably?) expect to pay about $100K to become a Michigan Man (or Woman). $100K is mortgage-class money. Mortgages are repaid over 30 years, but student loans are repaid over 10. Entry-level jobs - even those that require a college degree - don't pay that much. Is a lifetime of wage slavery, compliments of the University of Michigan, really worth "the unique experience of a dorm?" (And I'm saying this as a graduate of the U who lived in the dorms for two years.)


Tue, Sep 18, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

Why would you go to the $29k figure? They are not collecting that rate all summer long. Granted that $19k is still a lot of money to pay for 8 months. I guess it comes down to whether you'd rather be responsible for all those things you mentioned being able to pay for, while living a couple miles away from campus in a house, or have the unique experience of a dorm?


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

Sounds like it is cheaper to live at home, get the education and then move out.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Obviously, we need state-of-the-art facilities, in order to attract the best-and-the-brightest, so that we can charge them an arm-and-a-leg, so that: We can build state-of-the-art facilities, in order to attract the best-and-the-brightest, so that we can charge them an arm-and-a-leg, so that: We can....well, do I need to go on with this hamster wheel exercise?

Billy Bob Schwartz

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

Are kids going to live in the dorm forever? I lived in one for two years (a year too long), then got an apartment with two friends. The dorm was fine. They fed me and kept the place warm and I made lots of friends there. I guess I never thought about it as a punishment. A great university with great faculty and world class libraries, a great national and international academic reputation, with hockey and football and basketball and bright students from all over to learn from and with, etc., etc., etc. I spent most of my time out of my room anyhow. It's great they are fixing up the dorms. Still, college is a time to be a newly-minted adult. No real need for babying. Guess I blew it. Should have demanded luxury dorms.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

My time at West Quad was among the best in my life. Great friends and like you said, it was warm, got fed well and a short walk to the Diag. Complain? Nobody else had a beef with the old dorm (way back then). Attitudes were much different in those days. Luxury dorms, that was it back then. We thought South Quad looked like a hospital, and it still does.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:16 p.m.

Yep, my daughter took one look at the hot, dark, dingy, jail-like dorms at U of M and Mich. St. and opted for the Honors College at Grand Valley where she is in a suite that is only 2 years old. She has 3 roommates, her own room, 2 bathrooms, A/C, a full kitchen, and living area. Combine this with a great scholarship program, wonderful teachers, beautiful campus, friends from home, and she is a very happy, well-adjusted freshman.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

You have to want to live there and be comfortable living there. I hate to say it, if you like slumming it? Sounds like the UM dorms are the way to go. EMU dorms sound much nicer.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

Wow. I chose my University for the quality of its faculty, not the quality of it's dorms. Different people have different priorities I guess.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

I moved my daughter into West Quad a couple of weeks ago and I would definitely describe it as dark and dingy with really beat up furniture and a yucky floor. She lived in East Quad last year and it actually seemed in better shape than West Quad.

John of Saline

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

"Jail-like"? Suggest you tour a jail sometime to recalibrate your standards.


Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Not sure what is considered major in terms of renovation. The windows, for example have been moderized and prevent a loss of heat during the long winters. That had to be expensive in itself. My days at West Quad had the old crank windows and all of them were modernized many years ago. South Quad is now over half a centrury old and could use some sprucing up.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, Sep 17, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

That's true. I just found a U-M item from 1992 that notes the approval of window replacements and elevator renewal.