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Towers Complex

aerial--original towers.jpgOpened: 1969-71
Cost: $8.6 Million
Addition and Renovation: 2001-03

University officials began discussing plans for a high-rise on-campus living complex in the mid-1960s in response to rapid growth in the campus population. Central had 17 residence halls in 1967 that were designed to house 5,500 students, but with over 6,000 planning to live on campus, a new housing alternative became a priority. Original plans called for the complex to be built on the northwest corner of campus, on the site of present-day Northwest Apartments. However, the ground at that location was determined to be too unstable for such massive structures. Since shoring up the ground was prohibitively expensive, planners looked to the south end of campus as an alternative construction site.

Officials approved the plans for the new complex in 1967. Designed by architect Roger Allen of Grand Rapids, the $8.6 million project began in October 1967. The building plans called for two 8-story towers and two 9-story towers connected to and served by a central food commons. The construction contract was awarded to the Christman Company of Lansing, and the Great Lakes Hotel and Supply Company of Detroit was responsible for construction of the food service facilities. In summer 1968, strikes by five unions shut down construction on several buildings across campus. The new complex was the hardest hit, since it was in the early stages of construction when the strike began. The strike lasted over three months and the original opening date for the complex was pushed back.

After the strike ended, construction proceeded on schedule. Conflicts arose over access to sewage and water, but in November 1968, Mt. Pleasant residents west of the construction site voted to annex to the city, allowing the site itself to be annexed and for crews to connect the site to the city's water and sewer systems. The buildings opened one at a time over the course of the next two years. All four buildings were dedicated on June 12, 1971.

new towers construction.jpgWith so many students now concentrated on the south end of campus, the Towers complex became a new center of student activity. Even though a request by a group of students to be allowed to sunbathe on the roof of the dining commons was denied due to worries about deterioration to the building, students made the best of their new location and the Towers have housed hundreds of students each semester since their construction.

In the fall of 2001, University officials announced plans for the construction of a new high rise residence hall project which would be built as an addition to the existing Towers complex, originally completed in 1969-1970. The first new residence halls to be built by the University in over 30 years, the $33 million housing complex would add an additional 238,000 square feet to the existing dormitory complex. Plans for the project were created by architects at Design Plus in Grand Rapids. The Christman Company of Lansing, which constructed the original Towers project, received the contract for the new buildings as well as the $8 million in renovations planned for the existing halls.

Construction officially began with a groundbreaking ceremony in November 2001. The plans called for a large complex that would include space for 714 additional residents, classrooms, a technology center, and a workout room. A convenience store and a DVD/video game rental outlet were also included in the original designs. Parking facilities would be redesigned so that three separate parking lots would now serve the housing complex, the main one leading to a circular drive bounded by two ponds. A new security system, comprised of 54 cameras and proximity readers on exterior doors, was also installed as part of the project.

new towers construction 2.jpgAs the additions to the Towers complex neared completion in the fall of 2003, the University announced the official names of the new buildings. Kesseler Hall, which had been named previously, would be joined by Kulhavi Hall (called Gold Hall during construction) and Campbell Hall (called Maroon Hall during construction). In September, as students moved into the new residence halls, the University held an official dedication ceremony. Trustees Campbell, Kesseler, and Kulhavi were honored in front of around 300 CMU alumni and donors, and President Michael Rao gave a speech.

That same month, residents of the Towers complex held a pep rally to encourage unity among the old and new buildings. Around 1,500 student residents gathered at the intramural fields in an event sponsored by the seven buildings that make up the Towers complex. The event not only encouraged closer ties between residents of different buildings, it also kicked off the annual year-long friendly competition between residents of those buildings.