Spring Semester classes start Jan. 14; Willhite confident facility will be finished on time.

    With students at the University of Minnesota, Crookston on semester break until Jan. 14, in many respects the campus is pretty quiet these days. But that's anything but the case in the new student residence hall that's been under construction since last spring. With a little more than a week to go until classes fire up again, Gary Willhite, director of residential life and security services, told the Times on Thursday that the new building remains on track to be finished in time.

    "Things are looking promising," he said. "It appears we're going to make it."

    With the construction of Centennial Hall a few years ago followed by the construction of Evergreen Hall – both featuring many student amenities and apartment-like living – Crookston's U of M campus has become an anomaly of sorts, in that all kinds of upper-classmen, who might typically look for off-campus living options as they become juniors and seniors, want to live on campus. It's resulted in a housing crunch, with UMC in recent years having to rent a block of rooms at the Crookston Inn (formerly the Northland Inn) so students have a place to live. Currently, around 20 students are living at the hotel, but Willhite said they will be among the first students to move back onto campus.

    Students who need housing include several who didn't attend fall semester but are coming for the spring, Willhite said, as well as some new international students. There are students currently living on campus that want to move into the new building as well.

    "These residences are popular with students for many reasons, I think," he said. "We are building things that students want. As many are aware, much of our recent growth has been in online enrollment, but it remains as important as ever that we provide a positive, enjoyable experience for the more traditional students as well."

    The new building will house 145 students.

    As for giving it a name, Willhite said that, for now, the new residence hall is officially known as "University Project #05-881-11-2462"  or, simply, "Building 881." Its more informal name so far among the campus community, and the name that will be used for spring semester, he said, is "University Suites." But a committee is currently discussing "at least 40 to 50 suggestions" and will spend the semester narrowing those suggestions down.

    The tentative date for the new residence hall's dedication ceremony is April 18, he added.