Sitting at the south side of the Fort Hays State University campus stands a seven story dormitory that is near the end of its life. With half of the structure torn down in 2012, Wiest Hall’s main structure is about to meet the same fate.
The Wiest Hall dormitory was constructed in two phases starting in 1961 with the original four story building and the second seven story building built ten years later. It was named after Charles F. Wiest, emeritus professor of philosophy and religion.
“Dr. Wiest was one of two people associated with the college who drowned in the flash flood that inundated the southern part of the city of Hays and the campus on May 22, 1951,” according to FHSU website. So in his honor ten years later, the new dormitory was named in his memory.
Wiest Hall’s main structure, however, has seen better days.
“We’ve done several analyses of the tower and looked at a possibility of renovating it into a different arrangement, maybe a suite style arrangement versus the individual double loaded rooms that we have today. And again as we look at each individual building’s systems, from the foundations to the roof we determine that in a renovation only about 30 percent of those systems could be used and not be completely replaced or remodeled. Any time you fall below 50 percent it becomes very questionable about salvaging the structure. All of that combined led to the decision to remove it once the new Wiest Housing Replacement Project is online,” said Dana Cunningham, director of facilities planning.
“Probably the spring of 2016 would be the final semester of occupancy for that structure (Wiest Hall). Then we will be in development of the plans and biding. Plans to, number one, is to do asbestos abatement and that would then be followed by demolition so I’m hoping that maybe by fall of 2016 that we’ll be in a position to start the project,” Cunningham said. “We have no definitive plans for that site (Wiest Hall’s site) other than we know we will remove the parking lot and restructure it because it’s at the end of its life as well.”
Even though Wiest Hall is to be knocked down, future students won’t have to worry about housing.
“Our office (Facilities Planning) was probably the principle player in determining that we would not attempt renovation of original Wiest. That was in conjunction with my boss who would be Mike Barnett (Vice President of Administration and Finance). So largely in our area planning for the new facility involved our office as well as a host of people from student affairs and my boss as well. Student affairs was all involved with the planning of the new Wiest Project,” Cunningham said.
“The status of that project is that the construction documents are almost complete. I’m hoping we are maybe within a week or two of wrapping those up and having our code footprints approved from the state. At that point we’ll turn it into the state to go into the biding cycle. So right now I think we’d anticipate a bid opening potentially in mid-August. We are a little behind the original schedule. We’d hoped for July 1st bid opening but we’re just a bit behind schedule.
“The new Wiest will be occupied by fall of 2016 so it’s a plus replacement. In other words we are replacing it with about just over 500 beds and (old) Wiest itself is less than that number so it a little bit of a net gain,” Cunningham said. “The new Wiest is a completely new site. It’s located north of the Robin Center and kind of paralleling the bypass, near the bypass but by the Robin Center. The new project has a total project cost of $37 million and I don’t recall the abatement/demolition budget for old Wiest but it’s something over $1 million.”
Everyone is always excited to see what new buildings have to offer and all of it details and extras that come with them.
“The new housing Project of course will be connected back to campus with a new pedestrian bridge. It’ll be very similar but slightly larger than the Cunningham Bridge. That pedestrian bridge will land just south of this build (the Brooks Building) in the band practice field area and then there will be a sidewalk connecting back to the south union parking lot,” Cunningham said.
“The new project is really two structures. The largest holds just over 400 beds and it has its own dinning facility with it. I would describe it as almost as a V shape building. And then the second structure is much smaller and it’s about 100 beds. It’s similar in pod concept or living community concept, but there are only four groups in that whole building so it’s much smaller in size. It has more of a residential look compared to the larger building.”
FHSU is always seeking to improve its campus. The demolition of a dormitory and the construction of a new one will just be another chapter in the constant progression of FHSU.