The State of Wisconsin Department of Administration's Division of Facilities Development (DFD) has retained Ayres Associates on behalf of the University of Wisconsin System to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposed new residence hall project at UW-Eau Claire. The EIA will be prepared in accordance with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act (WEPA), Wisconsin Statutes 1.11, and University of Wisconsin System Administration (UWSA) guidelines (Board of Regents' Resolution 2508, November 6, 1981). An initial requirement of the EIA is the scoping process. The intent of the scoping process is to identify any potential impact of the project on the physical, biological, social, and economic environments. Because you or your agency or group may have an interest in the project, we are inviting you to participate in the scoping process.
Demand for on-campus student housing well exceeds its existing capacity. Residence halls have typically been at approximately 108% occupancy for the last decade. The University has accommodated demand by utilizing lounge spaces, assigning double rooms as triple occupancy, assigning roommates to residential hall advisors and renting approximately 200 beds at two West Clairemont Avenue hotels. These stopgap measures are inconsistent with University student development goals, but have been in place for over a decade. The majority of the existing housing stock is undersized in relation to national benchmarks and does not adequately provide common study and programming space necessary to meet student development goals. Housing students at more than the designed capacity of the residence halls detracts from a quality student life experience.
To meet student demand and its strategic goals, UW-Eau Claire has identified the need to increase the total supply of beds to reach 4,700 to 5,000 beds by the year 2027. Increased on-campus housing capacity would be achieved by adding a combination of suite-style rooms and apartments while also accounting for the loss of 590 beds from the future demolition of Horan, Putnam, and Thomas Halls. The addition of a new residence hall would provide increased housing capacity for students and reinforce UW-Eau Claire's brand as a university committed to providing on-campus housing, supporting recruitment and retention goals, and increasing student life on campus.
Proposed Project Action
A new, 440-bed, semi-suite style residence hall is currently in the design phase. The building is anticipated to measure approximately 140,000 GSF and consist of six stories with a rooftop mechanical penthouse and full basement with shallow foundation system. The new hall includes study and community space typical of student residence halls, but does not intend to replace the shared campus amenities available nearby in Crest Commons and Hilltop Center. Each suite will consist of four beds and will have a shared toilet/shower area. Sixty percent of the suites will be double bedroom configurations, and the remaining will be single bedrooms
The structural system for the six-story housing tower is anticipated to be a concrete block frame with precast concrete floor slabs. The structural system for the mechanical penthouse is anticipated to be structural steel frame with metal stud wall panels. It is possible that the second floor framing will consist of cast-in-place concrete beams and columns to free the first floor program space from the block and plank limitations. The exterior walls will be constructed of brick veneer over masonry backing.
The project will connect to existing campus central utilities for steam, chilled water, electric power telecommunications and to campus/municipal sanitary sewer, storm water and water. The project will be air-conditioned throughout. A new chiller will be purchased as part of this project to support the increased demand on the upper campus chilled water system.
Site development surrounding the hall will create a gateway for the west upper campus by welcoming students and visitors, while preserving open and recreation space. The site being considered for the location of this project is a recreation area on upper campus currently comprised of tennis and basketball courts. Site work will include the development of a new quad, a loading/service area, and demolition of existing tennis and basketball courts.
The estimated total project cost is $33,000,000 to be funded by Program Revenue Supported Borrowing. Construction is targeted for a February 2018 construction start, and substantial completion is scheduled for July 2019.
A Scoping Letter to solicit input on potential environmental impacts of the project was sent to selected potentially interested parties and agencies on December 19, 2016. The first response received was a generic email response from Governor Scott Walker, and did not contain any input specific to the proposed project. The second response was received from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which stated that there were no major environmental concerns with the project proposal, and that appropriate permits should be acquired for land disturbing activities and post construction stormwater treatment. Both of these recommendations have been incorporated in the EIA.
The Draft EIA was announced in the Leader Telegram on January 18, 2017, as available for a 15-day public review period. There were no comments received during the public review period. A Draft EIA public meeting was held on Wednesday, February 1, 2017, at 5:30 p.m. in Room 2924 of Centennial Hall on the UW-Eau Claire campus. The meeting was open to the public and was attended by representatives of the design team, UW-Eau Claire, and Ayres Associates. There were no attendees from the public at the meeting, and no additional comments were received on the project.
The UW-Eau Claire WEPA Coordinator has reviewed the Draft EIA and comments received during the Draft EIA public comment period to determine if a recommendation is needed to elevate this project to a Type I Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) level. The WEPA Coordinator for UW-Eau Claire concludes that this project is not a "major action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment," and therefore does not necessitate an EIS. Therefore, it is the opinion of the campus WEPA Coordinator that this Final EIA meets the spirit and intent of the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act, concludes the WEPA process in accordance with Wis. Stats §1.11, and recommends the campus proceed with the proposed project as planned. The Final EIA document was signed by the UW-Eau Claire WEPA Coordinator on March 1, 2017.
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