At 10:30 a.m. on January 13, Furman students received an email from President Davis entitled "South Housing Construction and Renovation." The communication announced Furman's largest anticipated construction project yet, one that will drastically change the South Housing landscape.
President Davis stated that the university's comprehensive renovation plans include an entirely new building where Blackwell currently stands. As a testament to Furman's strive to "create a vibrant student hub," the Center for Inclusive Communities (CIC) will move from Trone to the new residence hall.
The other four existing halls-- Manly, Geer, McGlothlin, and Poteat, will be renovated, but the current structure will remain. As stated in the initial email and in the story linked within the original email, upgrades will be made to improve "safety, accessibility, privacy, and sustainability."
In an interview with housing's Ron Thompson, he discussed specifically how they were planning on increasing privacy. Thompson described a pod-style bathroom, as seen in some of the on-campus housing in University of Michigan. The pods will be smaller than the normal hall bathrooms, but each stall features floor-to-ceiling doors, a shower, and a toilet, and the sinks will be communally shared.
"Providing new bathrooms allows us to be more fluid in how we manage [freshmen] communities. But not just for today's students. But for the students 40 years from now," said Thompson.
The new buildings will also be accessible to those with disabilities, unlike the current buildings, so students with mobility devices can access their rooms and live in a community of their peers.
The university plans to break ground on the project Saturday, February 12. Construction is expected to begin in March with students moving in for the 2023 Fall term. As further stated, the project will be funded through financing and will cost $70 million, with the new building comprising approximately $31 million of this sum.
Demolition of Blackwell Hall will begin in May 2024 and will continue through September of the same year. Blackwell Hall was constructed in 1967 and remodeled in 2006; however, an evaluation of the building determined that it would ultimately cost more to renovate the building than to just replace it. Despite the necessity of Blackwell's demolition, the university administration still wants to honor the former university president, and are discussing ways to do so.
In discussing the planning timeline, Thompson shared "we were deep in the planning of this when COVID began. We had gotten to a point where we had a timeline established, then COVID began and it interrupted all of our planning."
Some students are unhappy with the announcement to renovate. Junior Lana Aga said, "Why [is Furman] renovating South Housing first to 'enhance the freshman experience' when people in North Village are being hospitalized due to black mold?" Others echoed her sentiment, and recognize the danger of living in an environment with toxic mold--including a local news organization.
WYFF 4 published an article on December 22, discussing two students who were hospitalized due to mold. The article can be found here.
Overall, the new building project and accompanying renovations aim to make South Housing a more inter-connected student hub and provide ample room to fully house all first-year students. Click the link below to read about the plans in greater detail: