Officials at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay expect to notify individual students within a week as to fall housing options in the wake of a major fire Tuesday morning (June 25) at the Residence Life complex on campus.
Fire destroyed the building at 3334 Walter Way, also known as Building 109. The two-story structure with 17 units and 63 beds was unoccupied for the summer. No one was injured. No other structures were damaged.
Sue Keihn, associate provost and dean of students for UW-Green Bay, said she is “optimistic” the University will nonetheless be able to accommodate all of the 2,000 students currently holding fall-semester housing contracts.
Keihn and Glenn Gray, director of Residence Life, began discussions Thursday morning even as the emergency-response phase was winding down. They and others will make a recommendation to University leadership on how best to proceed.
“We’ll take a day or two to evaluate things,” Gray said. “Our continuity plans spell out a number of different options.”
Fall-semester classes begin Sept. 3 at UW-Green Bay. About 2,000 of the school’s 6,200 students reside on campus. Housing demand is intense for fall semester, but typically declines for spring as mid-year graduations, study-abroad trips and other departures free up capacity. There is currently a waiting list of 220 applicants for fall occupancy.
Neither Keihn nor Gray would speculate on a front-runner among possible options for dealing with what is now a 63-bed shortfall. As of late Thursday afternoon, possibilities under consideration included reconfiguring existing units to allow for additional beds (at reduced rates for renters); arranging for temporary, modular housing on site; or contracting for temporary housing with off-campus providers.
Keihn says the University will make a priority of informing students as soon as possible, and minimizing any disruption.
There are a total of 25 halls or residential buildings in UW-Green Bay’s Residence Life complex. The structure destroyed Tuesday was one of nine “traditional” or original apartment buildings completed in 1970.
Gray praised the action of on-site staff during the emergency. While Building 109 and most of the other traditional apartment buildings were not scheduled for occupancy until the return of undergraduate students in late August, residence halls nearby did have overnight residents.
A total of 69 summer campers were evacuated as a precaution from Schaefer, Temp and Long halls, the residence halls located nearest the fire scene, shortly after the fire call at 5:13 a.m. In total, about 500 teenagers are residing on campus this week for summer camps including UW-Green Bay’s Summer Art Studio, the Upward Bound and Trio pre-college programs, and the Wisconsin School Music Association honors camp. The day’s camps went on as scheduled.
“Fortunately, staff members were right on top of this,” Gray said. “The counseling and professional staff from the Summer Camp program and Residence Life, along with Public Safety and the emergency-response team, did great work. They deserve a great deal of credit.”
Officials evaluating the damage estimated a replacement cost exceeding $3 million for the Building 109 fire. Investigators seeking to determine a cause were unable to enter the wreckage of the building until mid-day. Arson has already been ruled out, and the cause is currently listed as “undetermined.”
Gray said cleanup could begin shortly. Security personnel will be on site through the night until fencing can be installed Friday to secure the scene.
As for rebuilding, the University’s vice chancellor for business and finance, Thomas Maki, said that discussion will take place over the coming weeks. In light of strong demand, the University since the mid-1980s has authorized construction of a total of 16 new residence halls by its private, non-profit partner, University Village Housing, Inc.
UW-Green Bay and UVHI representatives monitor demand and waiting lists on a regular basis, Maki said, to evaluate the feasibility of additional units, and Thursday’s fire adds a new dimension to ongoing planning.