Residence hall opens, houses 500 students
On a sunny, cloudless day last week, University officials snipped a bright red ribbon, signifying the official opening of the new 154,000 square-foot Busch, Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) residence hall on Busch campus.
Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory S. Blimling said the BEST residence hall, the first built since the University Center on Easton Avenue opened in 1994, had a variety of names originally. The Vice President Leadership Cabinet, a group of student leaders, helped to select the name.
"It indicates the quality of the building we have here," Blimling said.
Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Antonio Calcado said the three buildings, designed by Niles Bolton Associates and constructed by Turner Construction, took about 18 months to build. The constructors worked on an accelerated schedule to complete the buildings on time and on budget.
The buildings cost about $57 million, which was borrowed and will be repaid from students' on-campus housing fee, Calcado said.
University President Richard L. McCormick said it is not easy to finish a building of this magnitude on time and on budget.
"We take great pride in that at Rutgers," he said.
The antiquated style — such as the heavy layered stone and pitched roof — of the building was modeled after the University's first residence hall on the Old Queens campus, Winants Hall, which is currently used for administrative offices, Blimling said.
"I don't think there's a more beautiful spot on the Rutgers campus," McCormick said.
But the new hall includes many modern-day features its older counterpart lacks. It uses high-efficiency windows and is very energy efficient, Blimling said.
The building also boasts a new computer lab with 47 Mac computers, a SMART board and four TVs. The room will host classes during the day but be open to the University community in the evening.
"We tried to connect more of the academic experience with this building," Blimling said.
This includes having 44 academic leaders to help the residents.
Blimling said for science-oriented students like those in the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and School of Engineering, this could be very beneficial.
"So when people are struggling, there are people in this building who can reach out and help these students," he said.
To round out the academic experience of the residence hall, faculty members have developed a program of speeches and activities centered on a common theme to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. This year's theme will explore the 2010 BP oil spill.
Executive Director of Residence Life Joan Carbone said via email correspondence that the new hall is a special-interest program for those interested in the sciences, and residents are expected to participate in the hall's programming.
To live in BEST, upperclassmen had to fill out an application, which included a short essay, but first-year students only had to indicate their interest in living there, she said.
The building was also designed to create a long-lasting community for its residents, who can live there for all four years, Blimling said.
The three buildings can hold about 500 students, with about 160 in each, allowing the students to get to know each other well. This is ideal, Blimling said, as the University has found that 150 students is the ideal size for a residence hall community.
The buildings' low height of four stories each and the built-in courtyard also aids in developing this sense of community, he said.
The hall has two types of rooms—a four-person suite that includes two double rooms connected by a bathroom (designed for first-year students and sophomores), or a four-person suite with four singles, a bathroom and a common area.
Each hall also has common areas on the floors, a multipurpose room and a 24-hour quiet study area with smaller breakout rooms for group study.
"[The students] need places they can retreat and have those smaller groups, so we built it into this building," Blimling said.
Outside the buildings are rows of bike racks, the most on campus, intended to increase bike travel, Blimling said.
But the University decided on the current area — formerly an underutilized parking lot — because of its proximity to the Busch Student Center, newly expanded Busch Dining Hall and recreation center, he said.
The residence hall is also within walking distance to its residents' classroom locations such as the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, engineering and science laboratories and bus stops, Blimling said.
The president said this building's completion also recognizes the University's larger need for housing, especially as the campus has seen an increase in enrollment every year and two years ago rented out the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Edison, N.J.
This is only the beginning of new residence halls — next year a new residence hall is scheduled to open on the Livingston campus, housing about 1,500 students.
Calcado said it is an impressive and wonderful building, and is reflective of the changes underway in New Brunswick and Piscataway.
"We're going to continue to improve the campus," he said.
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