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West Virginia State Asked to Renovate Aging Dorms

CHARLESTON W.Va. — Preservationists are asking West Virginia State University to renovate its aging residence halls instead of tearing them down.

The school plans to build a new suite-style student-housing facility. It would be the first new dormitory since 1969.

Susan Pierce, deputy state preservation officer with the Division of Culture and History, urged the school to reconsider its plan in a June 24 letter Vice President Melvin Jones, the Charleston Gazette reported. Pierce said that the existing Gore and Prillerman halls are eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

“When faced with similar situations, other historic universities were willing to renovate those buildings for continued use in order to preserve the campus’ identity by retaining historically significant buildings,” Pierce writes. “It is not apparent through submitted materials why that could not occur in this instance.”

Danielle LaPreste, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, and Henry Battle, president of the Kanawha Valley Historical and Preservation Society, made a similar plea in a July 28 letter.

“There is a major risk of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater,’” their letter states. “Creatively remodeling and updating the two historic dormitories will give the university the opportunity to demonstrate to the community innovative ‘green’ technology as applied to fundamentally sound buildings, substantially saving energy and material resources. The greenest building is one already built.”

Jones said that the buildings are no longer suitable for dorm space and renovating them would be cost-prohibitive.

“This is the ultimate goal: to enhance our student life to get more students on campus and get them in facilities that they are comfortable with and amenities they are used to,” he told the newspaper.

“We find students who have that kind of comfort level do better academically,” he said.

He said students and alumni are “by and large very excited about the plans.”

“We’re moving ahead. We believe this is absolutely essential to the future of the institution and have examined all the alternatives we had around using the old dorms,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin in September and the facility is expected to be completed by August 2014.

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