Graham addresses new buildings

Father Michael Graham discusses future plans and renovations with SGA

By Hunter Ellis | Staff Writer

In the coming months, the next large-scale project will begin. O’Connor Sports Center will be converted into a facility for Xavier sports teams not housed in Cintas Center and renamed the Heidt Family Champion Center.

During his time on Monday with the new Senate, Father Michael Graham, president, answered questions and clarified a number of plans for future construction endeavors. Following the completion of the Health United Building (HUB), the university and its students have turned to the next major project.

Most notably, the university has postponed the building of a new residence hall by two years. Construction was originally projected to begin later this year for completion by the fall of 2021. Now, the project is not suspected to begin until 2022. The plans for another residence hall were set into motion when the university experienced difficulty accommodating the largest incoming class of 2022.

One of the primary reasons for the delay was the cost of the dorm which is reportedly higher than expected. Graham explained that the construction market is currently crowded and strained with other large-scale projects.

Most immediately, a majority of Cincinnati’s resources are occupied with the Amazon complex being built near CVG airport and the new FC Cincinnati stadium.

As a result, the cost to build the residence hall this year would have spiked $10 million, from the expected $55 million to $65 million.

The other motive for the delay was noted as a diminishing number of first-year students. The class of 2023 was smaller than the university hoped. Additionally, the projected size for the class of 2024 was cut from 1,250 students to 1,135 students in order to exercise caution in student population growth. 

“Based on 2019 and 2020 numbers, the extra space the residence hall would provide is unneeded,” Graham said. “However, if next fall’s enrollment numbers are robust, we know we will need the dorm to be constructed for 2022.”

The dorm is set to be located on the current site of the Bellarmine Parish Center and Physical Plant buildings between Kuhlman Hall and Buenger Hall. The university plans on revisiting this project and making an informed decision in 2021.

Construction of the residence hall between Buenger Hall and Kuhlman Hall has been postponed until at least 2022. Depicted above is a preliminary mock-up of the building, which will feature many “living study spaces.”

The new residence hall is one of the many steps being taken by the university to prepare for an undergraduate population of 5,000 students.

“If we expanded past 5,000 people, it would cause severe infrastructure problems on a university-wide level,” Graham said. As such, the university has been preparing campus to accommodate a growing student body.

In anticipation of more students, Graham mentioned that the residence hall will incorporate “living study spaces” in their design.

Vice President of Facilities, Robert Sheeran, further elaborated on this, comparing the new building to Fenwick.

“This new building would have a lower floor that is open to the general student body, with meeting spaces and study spaces, with residence spaces on the upper floors.”

Outside of the conversation around the new dorm, several other projects have risen on the university’s docket. 

“The HUB started a domino effect,” Sheeran said. With the HUB as the new home of Rec Sports, O’Connor Sports Center will be renovated and renamed the Heidt Champion Center. The facility will serve as the home for athletic teams not housed in Cintas Center.

The interior of Heidt will be completely renovated and converted into locker room space. The existing basketball court is expected to become a turf field for indoor practices.

In the summer of 2021, Schmidt Fieldhouse, currently used for indoor practices, will be vacant and subsequently torn down.

“We did a study to find out how much it would cost to renovate Schmidt and found out it was way higher than we would like,” Graham said.

Simultaneously, certain parts of McGrath and Cohen will be renovated and repurposed in light of Health and Counseling Services and the College of Nursing relocating to the HUB.

It was also announced that McGrath will be repurposed as the new home for the Communications Department.

Additionally, the Armory is slated to be updated next summer but no major changes will be coming to the building.

In two to three years, Xavier also hopes to do a complete renovation of the library, a project which Sheeran called a top priority.  While preliminary planning is finished, the design has yet to be selected.

Even in the midst of these major renovations and construction plans, Sheeran assured that the university will simultaneously work to improve the quality of the existing buildings on campus.

“We have all of these projects in mind, as well as major renovations to The Commons (Apartments) and Brockman (Hall) slated for the summer of 2021,” Sheeran added.

For more information, please consult the Physical Plant’s website.