University of Michigan to build freshman residence hall, move marching band field

Kara Berg
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan will build a new residence hall and dining facility to house 2,300 first-year students, President Santa Ono announced Thursday. The budget for the initial stage of the project is $6.5 million.

Additional on-campus housing for students is one of the university's "more urgent needs," Ono said. The school's undergraduate student population has grown since 2004, but housing has not, he said, which forces some students to start looking for their second-year off-campus housing within months of starting at UM.

"This new construction will not by itself solve all of our housing concerns, but it's a big first step," Ono said.

The residence hall will be built at Elbel Field in Central Campus, between Hoover Avenue and Hill Street, where the university marching band currently practices. The marching band will be relocated to a new practice facility to be created on the 6.1-acre Fingerle Lumber Company site that UM acquired in 2018.

It is the first on-campus housing built specifically for first-year students since the '60s, Ono said. It is a "lasting response to a long-standing concern," he said.

"Adding more on-campus housing capacity also will ensure more equitable access to affordable housing for those who need it," Ono said.

The board of regents voted unanimously Thursday to approve moving forward with the housing plan.

Martino Harmon, vice president for student life, said in a news release that the university has fallen behind the growing demand from undergraduate students who want to live on campus past their freshman year.

"This fall, more than 2,300 students were turned away from campus housing due to lack of capacity, and we know the desire to live on campus, especially among undergraduates, is significantly higher than the applications might suggest," Harmon said.

UM can house about 11,300 students on campus, including nearly 9,000 undergraduate students and about 2,400 graduate students, according to a news release. Of students living on campus, 76% are first-year students.

The university's undergraduate student-to-bed ratio was 40% in 2004, but that has dropped to 28% this year, according to Harmon and Geoffrey Chatas, the executive vice president and chief financial officer.

More details for the residence hall and marching band facility, including a full budget presentation, will be announced in February at the board of regents meeting.

The hall is in addition to three new residence halls slated for UM's North Campus by fall 2024, which were announced earlier this year. The residence halls will include 1,200 beds for students, but plans were paused to focus on the need for housing on Central Campus, according to a UM news release.

The new marching band facility will continue to honor Louis Elbel, the composer of UM's fight song "The Victors," which he wrote in 1898. The field was named in his honor in 1977.

"As this process moves forward, we are confident the Michigan Marching Band will have incredible, best-in-class facilities that will allow the band to continue its unparalleled tradition and legacy well into the future,” said John D. Pasquale, director of the 400-member Michigan Marching Band, in the release.