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Posted on Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

University of Michigan's East Quad dormitory opens after $116 million renovation

By Kellie Woodhouse

A newly renovated, state-of-the-art and richly appointed East Quadrangle is open for business after a yearlong $116 million renovation.

It's a head turner, and that's exactly what the University of Michigan was going for.

East Quad, which is home to 856 students, a 430-seat dining hall and the school's residential college, is the latest dormitory to receive a sweeping renovation as a part of the school's Residential Life Initiative.

The nearly decade-long initiative is in part meant to help U-M keep up with the comfortable dorm offerings of other elite colleges. Nice dorms, U-M officials say, help attract competitive students.

The initiative has facilitated the construction or renovation of nine dormitories and dining halls thus far. Another renovation — of South Quad — is underway and will be followed by a $114.5 million renovation of West Quad. U-M regents have also approved plans for a $185 million graduate dormitory.

The idea behind the initiative is to enrich students' residential experience and facilitate learning and collaboration in their living quarters. Many of the renovations offer atriums, libraries, cozy community spaces, computer labs, spacious showers and game rooms where students can hook up gaming systems and play foosball or pool — all of which add allure to on-campus life for prospective students.

At East Quad, renovations are contemporary and the design is sleek. There's a large focus on community spaces and study lounges. Upgrades incorporate the building's architectural and historical elements.

East Quad was first constructed in 1940, and although crews built two small additions as a part of the project, U-M focused on renovating existing space. A 15-foot buildout on the west side of the building's courtyard was used to create an atrium, with the former brick exterior now acting as an interior wall.

In addition to the $116 million construction cost, U-M spent $3.3 million to furnish East Quad's student rooms, cafeteria, common rooms and 15 classrooms and studios — including the building's dark room and pottery studio.

"This basically is what meets a lot of new students' expectations," said Peter Logan, director of communications for U-M Housing.

U-M built a new cafe area inside the building and overhauled the dining hall.

With the building reopening to students next week, its dining hall will go completely trayless in an effort to discourage food waste.

East Quad's dining hall will be station style, meaning instead of moving down one long cafeteria line diners can choose from different stations, such as deli, vegan, pizza, etc. The seating area is restaurant style, with booth and table choices. The kitchen is equipped with modern appliances, such as stoves that can steam food and have computerized controls.

Explained Buzz Cummings, East Quad's head chef of seven years: "There's a lot of shine. It looks like a jewelry store at Briarwood."

East Quad has about 10 large lounge spaces, many of which are for group studying. It has a computer lab with 27 terminals and old-fashioned library carrels with faux-stained glass dividers and dry-erase board walls.

Other study spaces include large wall-mounted monitors that allow multiple students to plug in their computers at one time.

The building's nuts and bolts were improved as well. The work in East Quad added a fire suppression system, replaced infrastructure — electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems and roofing — and added air conditioning and wireless network access throughout. The building was brought up to accessibility standards as well.

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


Sven Gustafson

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

I lived there from '89-91 and don't recognize the place by the photos. And I can vouch that the old cafeteria indeed served lousy food — but it built character. :)


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:50 a.m.

Imagine, updating a 73 year-old dormitory and bringing its utilities up to current standards as well. It's shocking how these old run down dorms need to be refurbished and updated after decades of heavy wear and tear. Shocking, just shocking.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 2:39 a.m.

Zargon West cost $20 million for 200 beds or $100K/bed for NEW construction; this was a rehab! Something is wrong here; the money UofM spends is highly wasteful. The cost of UofM housing to students is significantly higher than CPI inflation over the last 30 years. UofM has consistently raised dorm charges about 50% faster than inflation for 30 years. In contrast, the ICC has kept their charges in line with inflation--go figure.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

Thanks Stuart.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

Inter-Cooperative Council, student owned and operated housing on campus (Mich House, Vail, Lester Houses, etc.)


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

Interstate Commerce Commission? What is the ICC? Nothing else is popping into my head at the moments - sorry.

Chelsea Hoedl

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

It looks amazing. I'll definitely be paying a visit this fall!


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

A U of M student gets voted down for saying she will visit a refurbished dorm this fall... Once again, a tough crowd tonight.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:33 p.m.

Readers, I'm putting together a retrospective on East Quad-- so if you're interested send me some old pictures of the dorm. My email is


Fri, Aug 23, 2013 : 8:20 p.m.

Halfway mean the HalfArse? *sly look* Oh, that place! I saw Red Hot Chili Peppers there in the early 90s (socks and not much else!) :O)


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 2:28 a.m.

Hahaha - I'm pretty sure most of the evidence, I mean photos, have been destroyed!

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

Particularly of the Halfway Inn...

Ann Arbor Parents For Students

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

Finally, renovating the dorms! Over the past 73 years that East Quad has been open, the University has collected $437,416,000 in fees from students (not including meal plan & classroom fees)-simple math =856 students x 73 years x $7000 in board (current rate for example purposes only). This math does not include expenses for improvements, utilities and staff, seems like U of M should be finally updating their dorms. Students are paying $7000 a year to share a 14 x 10 room or $1750 per room per month. Dorm living is expensive per square foot.

David Cahill

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

This is a definite setback for the student high-rise developers, who will see their captive market disappearing back into dorms like these.

Ann Arbor Parents For Students

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 4:22 a.m.

The Varsity is only 60% rented because it opened a week ago. Students make their plans in October for the following year. At that time, Varsity was only a photograph. It is a great facility. It is 750 square feet and includes a washer dryer for $1650 per month (divided by 2). Has exercise, meeting rooms,etc. and underground parking for a fee. All other new high rises are full (maybe one or two spots), so there is demand for nice places. I think the dumpy houses will be the ones to suffer not the dorms or nice apartments.

Tom Whitaker

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

Agreed. With the brand new Varsity only 60% rented according to a recent article in, it's pretty clear that the student housing saturation point has been exceeded even with South Quad under renovation, one North Campus dorm closed permanently and two additional student high rises approved for construction. Supposedly, this Fall, UM will be curbing freshman enrollment for the second year in a row. Fast forward two years to the completion of the major dorm renovations and the new graduate dorm and just imagine the glut at that point. Do the out-of-town financiers of these high-rise projects do any local due diligence at all or do they choose projects the way the rest of us choose a mutual fund?

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:06 p.m.

Yes, the wide range of community space and food options really gives the new luxury high rises a run for their money...


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

In fall of 2015 "the dorm that ate Blimpy Burger" will open with another 600 slots. That will add some competition as well.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 4:18 p.m.

Jeez! I wish I was a freshman again... I lived in E Quad in 1965-1966. There is no equal to Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan, and the state of Michigan. I do regret some of my behavior - igniting M80's attached to the RA's door in the middle of the night, wrestling with my roommate over a box of kitchen matches and setting his bed on fire (that one got me fined). Despite it all I graduated and came back later for a Masters Degree.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

Jeesch, I thought it was funny to 'knife' the RA into their room. How lame was I? But on the other hand, I don't really regret it.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 5:18 p.m.

Note to self, DO NOT mess with Outfield Dans kitchen matches. He might turn all Farrah Fawcett in The Burning Bed on you


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

"this sort of environment is used with a degree of intensity that a residential home is not" Yup. You'd be surprised the beating that Uni housing resources take in a given semester...or maybe not.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 4:29 p.m.

"I do regret some of my behavior - igniting M80's attached to the RA's door in the middle of the night, wrestling with my roommate over a box of kitchen matches and setting his bed on fire (that one got me fined)." Ah ha, the culprit comes we know why the renovations were needed :) On a semi-serious note, some posters wonder about the expense relative to costs in other domains, but this sort of environment is used with a degree of intensity that a residential home is not.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 4:15 p.m.

For background: U-M housing has traditionally been a self-funding entity, meaning it services its debt through its own funds, which come from housing fees from students, housing fees for summer camps, donors, etc... State dollars and tuition don't fund the renovations.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 6:27 p.m.

That is a bunch of bullocks! UofM spends way more on rehabs of old dorms than developers spend on new construction of what is considered luxury student housing. Those developers are obviously making a profit or at least intend to; so what is UofM intending with making costs so high? Oh I know, former AD Bill Martin showed us what is going on when he used his inside information to purchase property slated to become a new graduate student dorm.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 12:06 a.m.

No Markley has not. And I have not seen it mentioned over the last several years in any of these stories about dorm renovations. I have been told that due to the way it is built that remodeling may be extremely difficult. I don't know if that is referencing cinder block construction or what. Could just be a mean rumor though, started by someone in a dorm that was remodeled.. And yes to Kellie. I have always heard that UM athletics and UM dorms were self-funded and did not depend on tuition dollars. I know that is pretty uncommon for athletics, but I don't really know what the standard is for dormitories.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 5:25 p.m.

Has Markley been renovated or is it on the list? It was fairly utilitarian in my day.

Abby Rosenbaum

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

looks amazing! makes me want to go back to college ;-)


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 3:48 p.m.

Interesting. I know that Michigan has to keep up with the Joneses in the battle for students, but I'm not a big fan luxury dorms or high rises. I'm not a puritan saying that students should live Spartan existences, and think that students should have fun in college, but I also suspect that sitting at long tables with strangers as well as friends (instead of booths), standing in line together for mystery meat and living in close quarters with strangers (or being pushed out of a room for climate reasons) can break down barriers and encourage interaction/friendships outside of existing social groups.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

Your points are all reasonable, but large schools spend money after doing a certain amount of research into what their "customers" are buying. The stuff I've read suggest that students want the amenities and parents (some) are able and willing. Whether they will continue to be able is an open question; whether this is "pandering" is also an open question, but for the time being, it can be said that this sort of upgrade is market driven and helps to attract students.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Is the Halfway Inn still around?

Sven Gustafson

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

I remember seeing a story a few years ago where the U basically converted it to a modern, automated snack bar, or something. Place bore no resemblance to the atmospheric, easygoing place that employed me for a few years during the early '90s and where I spent much money playing Joker Poker. I have a T-shirt with the graphic of the irreverent HA wall mural in my drawer. P.S. "Popcorn has been modernized in startling ways" was amazingly prescient graffiti. Those who were there know what I'm talking about. Viva the Half***!


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

The first comment on this thread was mine and deleted because I used the more colorful term for the Halfway Inn that you folks are using. @Kellie: it was Blimpy Burger in the basement of East Quad. Live music was sometimes great. The cafeteria was serving Steak Kow (yeah, really that's what it was called) so you waited 'till 10pm and either got a slice at the Backroom down the street or went to the basement of the Quad and ordered a double cheesy greasy with fries (yes, you could place the order as such). The other important facts that need to be known: how much drugs did they find in the walls? Did they get rid of the Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon mural?

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

Seen a lot of great bands @ The Half*** even the great, the one & only Shakey Jake! played there. Had some great bagel fights outside there too.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

Ah, very interesting. Sounds fun and pretty odd to have a greasy spoon in a dorm.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:11 p.m.

The Halfway Inn, or Half*** as everyone called it, was a little diner-type place in the basement. They'd also have bands play there. It was open later than the caf so I had to eat there a lot because marching band rehearsal made it impossible to eat at the caf. Definitely a greasy spoon but it was really convenient. Plus they had an Atari set up!

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

Educate me, what was the Halfway Inn?


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 5:02 p.m.

Nope, that was lost in the renovation. Most students had called it "The Halfass" up until renovations began, as quality standards as well as sanitary standards were often not met by employees. Heard many stories of employees riding bikes to work and then leaving them in the kitchen where food was prepared.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

good question! anyone????


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

Nothing can replace the non-intentional retro Watergate Era decor of Bursley.

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

Wow. I had several classes in East Quad and spent time studying there. But my first memory of East Quad is when I came to student orientation the summer before my freshman year, and the soon-to-be-students would all stay at East Quad. The rooms were SO hot and the food was..not great. In my opinion, it wasn't a great dorm to give students a first impression of what's to come. I liked my dorm - Couzens - much better. Kellie: Any idea if students still stay at East Quad during orientation? With the renovation, it's much better digs! The AC thing is huge.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

@Lizzy: East Quad was hotter than Hades all year long and most people I knew opened their windows in the winter to cool things off. The place had character though and so did the students who lived there. Back in the day, it was also one of the first dorms that had men & women on the same floor in adjacent rooms.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 5 p.m.

East Quad has been the default orientation place for years now, and it's only moved select years due to renovations. Orientation was in South Quad for 2009 when they were renovating the RC, again in South Quad in 2012, and in Markley this past summer since both East and South were under renovations. Due to it's convenient location to the auditoriums used in orientation as well as the fishbowl, I imagine it will continue to be the place for orientation. South/West are close, but are occupied by camps.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

I wonder if there was more updating in the kitchen area? The food waste contraption looks iffy. Emptying heavy food waste into a flimsy plastic bag........and just one waste bin? Maybe it's better than it looks. But it looks like the kitchen staff will be running outside to find new bins, or set upright the single one. Just hope all the big improvements aren't only in the places that are open to public view.

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

Hi BH- Here's a little more info on food pulpers in a story from on a similar machine that was installed at Oberlin College:


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

It does look great. I just hope U of M doesn't lose sight of the affordability of higher education (any more than they already have). $137,000 per student is $3000/year for 45 years - that's a lot of money to amortize.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

As "bamboozled" noted, this reno is not just a luxury rehab: there is work done to support the academic mission (i.e., this is not just housing but a housing/academic hybrid); there is a requirement to meet newer codes; there are requirements for things like accessibility. All of those things raise costs beyond those required for mere residential or single-family construction. It would be interesting to strip out the academic component and the code-required costs, but that would take a fair amount of cost-accounting...which would be a real snooze-fest for most readers.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

Note that this renovation also involved the Residential College, which includes a number of classrooms, faculty office-space, and lounges. If you were to parcel out the cost of the renovation that was 100% dedicated to the residents, the number would be significantly lower. Still a big number, no doubt, but not the per-student number you cite.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

"In addition to the $116 million construction cost, U-M spent $3.3 million to furnish East Quad's student rooms, cafeteria, common rooms and 15 classrooms and studios" If this statement is correct, it appears that the biggest bang-for-the-buck was the$3.3 million spent to fix the rooms and cafeteria. Spending so much more means that a student will now need to pay over $600 per month at . This is in addition to what would have been paid w/o the remodeling. This assumes that it is leased out all summer long and 4% loan over 40 years. A new atrium? Repeat things like this all over a university and it is no surprise why college costs are so high and so many end up graduating with so much debt. It looks nice, though.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

"If this statement is correct, it appears that the biggest bang-for-the-buck was the$3.3 million spent to fix the rooms and cafeteria." I think you missed the word "furnish". The student rooms and cafeteria were part of the construction and the overall construction cost, but an additional $3.3 million was spent on new furniture, window-treatments, etc.

Jim Osborn

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

This is from the link to the graduate housing dorm. "A one-bedroom apartment in Northwoods can cost up to $970 a month and a three-bedroom townhouse can cost up to $1,250. A one-bedroom apartment with a 12-meal-per-week plan at the Lawyer's Club costs between $11,660 and $13,260 for an 8-and-a- half-month lease." This is for a room that holds more than one student, at a much lower cost than that for just the East Quad remodeling costs.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 12:02 p.m.

Only $137,000 per resident. I'd say it's a deal. At least for someone. It does look very nice though.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

Well the original was built in 1940, so lets say this remodel lasts half as long and round down to 35 years and account for only being open 9 months out of the year. That equals a total of LESS than $500 per month. I think that is money well spent


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 12:12 p.m.

yeah because the same residents will live there forever. They don't move a new group of people in every year. So really that number drops by half every year, even if that was a relevant figure. What is the allowable amouth you think UofM can spend on renovations. I'm sure you are an expert in the field of University planning.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 11:48 a.m.

This looks fantastic! I lived in East Quad in the 90's and these renovations just look amazing. Would have loved to have these types of amenities. Especially the air conditioning!! Hope the students are appreciative of everything!

Jen Eyer

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

I did too, MMB95. I can hardly recognize any of the rooms in the gallery!


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 11:19 a.m.

Wow - looks great! I remember when East Quad used to be the dumpy backwater of Central Campus. The University has done a nice job renovating these fine buildings (the Hill dorms came out nicely). They're working on West/South Quad right now (walked by there the other day and saw the entire ground floor of South Quad gutted), interested in seeing how that comes out. What's next? Perhaps Markley?

Sean Thomas

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

I hope so, I feel bad for kids in markley or bursley these days - they will be the only ones without a completely new dorm!