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The Campus Residence Halls – Time to Look Forward

Originally, on-campus residence halls were not part of the plan for the California State University. All CSU campuses were commuter campuses. That changed in 1958. The Long Beach campus, along with many of its sister campuses, added two three-story, red-brick residence halls to the campus landscape. The facilities held 418 beds.

Meghan Palaszewski with family members during fall 2005 move-in at the campus residence halls.
Meghan Palaszewski with family members during fall 2005 move-in at the campus residence halls.

In 1968, the campus added 450 beds and a dining hall. Capacity remained at that level until 1986, when two more complexes opened with 959 more beds and a second dining hall. No new buildings have been added since 1986, although student demand for on-campus residence space has continued to grow. Applications for on-campus housing grew a whopping 123 percent from 1997 to 2005—from 3,635 to more than 8,100.

To stem the tide of pent-up demand, a number of community spaces were converted to student bedrooms in summer 2002. While this added 135 beds to the residence hall inventory, given the increase in demand and the anticipated growth in student population, much more development clearly needs to be done.

During the past several months, campus representatives have been meeting with Steinberg Architects to develop a housing master plan. The goal of these meetings is to develop a multi-stage plan for doubling campus bed spaces within the next 15 to 20 years. Additional goals include upgrading and expanding current dining facilities in order to accommodate all of the expansion and changes; adding amenities that are currently unavailable, such as a convenience store and after-hours dining; and doing all of this within the existing campus housing footprint.

Lidia Meza samples from the Parkside Commons breakfast menu.
Lidia Meza samples from the Parkside Commons breakfast menu.

An obvious answer might be to build high-rise residence halls. University representatives involved in preliminary planning placed a high priority on maintaining the low profile, park-like setting enjoyed on campus. These goals—to grow without taking up anymore space or building very high, to add amenities for students that do not presently exist and, by the way, to make it all look nice—may seem an impossible task. Amazingly, a plan that meets all of these difficult criteria exists. In draft form, it is an exciting start.

In its current framework, the plan has five phases. The first phase includes a 400-bed, four-story residence hall and a 57,000 sq. ft. dining hall. Plans for amenities in this new dining hall facility include a number of short-stay rooms to accommodate campus guests, an extended-hour coffee house, community space for various activities and a convenience store. The plan for the dining hall itself calls for a contemporary design with several presentation cooking stations and a variety of seating areas. It is an exciting new look and will double the current capacity. Work on this first phase will be initiated as soon as possible, which means actual construction will begin in about two years, with the new facilities coming on board 18 months to two years after that.

Rendering of new dining area in campus halls.

Subsequent phases will be initiated as indicated by budgets and enrollment. These phases also will be located within the current housing footprint.

Phase Two will involve the demolition of the existing dining and commons buildings at Parkside. (All food service during the Phase Two construction will take place at the old Residence Commons Dining Hall and the new dining hall of Phase One.) Phase Two will consist of a long, linear building with a breezeway on the ground level to allow pedestrian circulation within the Parkside community. On the first level will be a dining hall in one wing and a convenience store, laundry and multipurpose hall in the other wing. Residence hall spaces on levels two through four will accommodate 306 student beds, plus staff rooms. At the completion of Phase Two, the campus will have the option of demolishing the existing Residence Commons Dining Hall and converting the existing parking lot into a large green space that will replace the open field/activity area used in Phase One.

Phase Three will construct two new buildings on the current site of Housing’s administrative offices. These new halls will add 508 beds, plus staff rooms. The Housing Office will be temporarily relocated next to the Phase One dining hall.

Bret Morris takes a break during fall move-in.
Bret Morris takes a break during fall move-in.

The new residence hall adjacent to Atherton Street is programmed for three stories in order to maintain a low profile toward our neighbors across the street from campus and the single story Isabel Patterson Child Development Center next door. The companion new residence hall located toward the center of campus will be four stories.

Phase Four will complete work within the Parkside complex. This phase adds a four-story building with 395 beds and will include new housing administrative offices along Earl Warren Drive. This location of the Housing Office will be central to all the residence halls. Construction of this phase will include razing one of the existing Parkside buildings.

Phase Five will complete the build-out with a four-story building that includes 424 new beds. This building will be located between the oldest currently existing buildings, Los Cerritos and Los Alamitos halls. This location, currently a parking lot, will be converted to a green space at the end of Phase Two. If a decision is made to retain this green space at the start of Phase Five, then an alternative will be to raze and build on the location of either Los Alamitos or Los Cerritos or both. These buildings will be 67 years old in 2025.

The goal of this exercise is to develop a coordinated plan for expansion that fits into existing space and may be implemented over a multi-year period in a flexible manner. This plan meets all these goals.

With the professional guidance of Steinberg Architects, a campus plan now exists that could double the available student housing in less than two decades. There is a long way to go, but now we know what we want is possible. —Olin is director of Housing and Residential Life.