On Saturday, Feb. 12, around fifty trustees, alumni, and news casters gathered on Blackwell Field to welcome the start of construction on South Housing's newest addition.
President Davis began the event with a discussion of how the new renovations would revolutionize the freshman experience, and even called the new and renovated living space "a modernized...residential village." She also mentioned the amenities incorporated in the new housing, including the larger office space for the Center for Inclusive Communities (CIC) and the new pod-style bathrooms mentioned in a previous interview with housing's Ron Thompson.
In the speech, Davis announced that the first freshman class will be moving into the new hall in Fall of 2023. Thompson elaborated on that process in a separate interview with The Paladin.
Thompson shared that the Furman community can expect increased traffic congestion and construction noise in the South Housing area during the workday. He made it clear that a strict daily timeframe for construction has been planned to minimize noise disruptions in the mornings and evenings, and housing will be able to enforce these restrictions if students report construction noise. Additionally, the incoming freshmen of 2023-2024 will still have the opportunity to reside in South Housing, including Blackwell. But with some changes.
During the fall semester of 2023, any student not living in the new residence hall or Blackwell will only be placed in Manly or Geer, so the renovations of McGlothlin and Poteat can occur. At the conclusion of finals week in the fall, those students will retain their roommates and transition to the newly renovated rooms in McGlothlin and Poteat to allow for the renovations of Manly and Geer. At the time of transition, students will have assistance from housing staff, and volunteers to help move them into their newly upgraded spaces.
And, in spring of 2024, Blackwell Hall will fall after over 55 years of housing first-year students.
In her speech directly after President Davis', Connie Carson from the CIC summed up the vision for the renovations and new construction best. "The four-year residential experience is a distinctive pillar of the Furman experience...when you look at these buildings, you know that generations lived there, and we do not forget the past. We build on the past. But, we build for a new future." The CIC's movement to South Housing promotes the sense of belonging and community, as well as making inclusion more accessible.
Trustee and Financial Health and Resources chair David Hauser gave an overview of how Furman chose the contractors for the project. The project's lead design firm is Mackey Mitchel Architects, and they have partnered with local minority-owned businesses, including McMillan Pazadan Smith and Rodgers Builders, to support the massive project. Rodgers Builders is women-owned and has previously worked on campus to complete the additions to the Charles H. Townes Center for Science.
Brianca Beckford tied the housing experience back to the student perspective by talking about her experience as a Resident Assistant. She spoke of the bare halls filling with decorations, the move-in days she experienced, the annual tradition of the freshmen boys serenading their female counterparts, and the personal growth students experience while living in South Housing. She also included a personal note to the current and incoming first-year students,
"To the first-years, make more memories. Continue participating and developing this great community. And to the first-years of tomorrow, I invite you to make this new facility your home."
With that, at 11:30 a.m., Carson, Hauser, Trustee Ed Good, Beckford, and student body president, Asha Marie, picked up the shovels marked with Furman purple and broke the ground on the site of the new building.