Shortly after the first two sections of newly built 426-bed Balsam Hall at Western Carolina University passed occupancy inspections on Thursday, Aug. 20, which cleared the way for 298 students to move in, resident assistants Brandon Hill and Daniel Allen did just that. They stayed up late preparing for Freshman Move-In Day and by 6:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 21, were stationed at the registration table welcoming students.
They weren’t the only ones to forgo a little sleep in their enthusiasm. Willie Bowman, a sophomore graphic design major, left Virginia about 1 a.m. to get to campus early to move in and help others do the same. By 10 a.m., he had unloaded his belongings and was visiting Balsam Hall resident Corey Miles, a sophomore orientation counselor, and checking out Miles’ new room.
“The location is a plus,” said Miles. “That’s why I moved here, so I wouldn’t have to be so far from everything.”
Built at the heart of campus, Balsam Hall is just feet from the new Courtyard Dining Hall and close to the 1-year-old Campus Recreation Center and to A.K. Hinds University Center. Together, the buildings border a grassy, pedestrian-friendly quad at the center of campus.
The fourth residence hall to open at Western Carolina in five years, Balsam is the first to be built as part of a $50.2 million project to construct two residence halls to house about 800 students. Its companion residence hall, Blue Ridge Hall, is now under construction and scheduled to open in fall 2010.
Students helped design Balsam and Blue Ridge halls, which will be home to WCU’s residential Honors College and Teaching Fellows Program. Inside is a mix of modern single- and double-occupancy rooms as well as offices for Honors College staff, lobbies, common areas and meeting rooms.
Architects also incorporated features such as columns and balconies that Honors students came to associate with the college when located in Reynolds Hall. Also, after a design charette involving students, architects added innovations such as basement garage band space and a central arch complete with a study room that will bridge the fourth floors of Balsam and Blue Ridge halls.
“When the residence halls are complete, WCU’s Honors College will be housed in a facility that will rival any home for Honors in the nation,” said Brian Railsback, dean of the Honors College.
The 128 students assigned to rooms in the third section of the building that will not be complete until September have been temporarily assigned to other rooms on campus in Madison and Harrill residence halls, as well as study lounges converted into residential rooms in Scott Hall.
“We simply could not make up enough time for some construction delays early on, including some weather delays at critical times,” said Keith Corzine, director of residential living. “We are very disappointed that the entire facility is not complete and ready for occupancy, but we remain committed to making the experience of living on campus as positive as possible for students who are temporarily relocated.”
Students unable to move into Balsam will receive a $250 credit as well as a pro-rated, per-day amount equal to the difference between the housing fees for Balsam and their temporary room assignments. In addition, students will be offered moving assistance to relocate to their rooms in Balsam Hall when it is completed.
Western Carolina University held a groundbreaking ceremony for Balsam Hall in April 2008. Construction continued through August 2009, when students moved in to the first two sections of the building. The slideshow below features photos from the groundbreaking, construction and Freshman Move-In Day.
By Teresa Killian Tate