Two new residence halls open to UCLA students this weekend
Undergrads move to Holly Ridge, Gardenia Way; Dykstra Hall to be renovated
Karen Bui, a first-year physiological science major, moves into her room in the new Gardenia Way residence hall.
Presidents Day weekend will be eventful for nearly a thousand students who have been living in Dykstra Hall, one of UCLA's oldest residence halls. They will pack up their textbooks, laptops and Bruin T-shirts and, at carefully assigned times and in partnership with their current roommates, begin a new chapter at the university.
Aided by UCLA staff and student helpers, as well as approximately 400 large carts and flatbed trucks, the students will move their belongings from the 50-plus-year-old Dykstra and travel roughly 300 feet (as the crow flies) to another part of "The Hill," as the collection of undergraduate residence halls in the northwest part of campus is known.
Awaiting them will be the newest of the university's accommodations: the 10-story Holly Ridge and the seven-story Gardenia Way. The move will run from early morning on Friday, Feb. 17, until well in the evening Sunday.
Among those relocating is freshman Giovanna Castro, who has lived in Dykstra since last fall and is most looking forward to new bathrooms and more reliable elevators. Sure, she'll miss the feeling of community that comes from Dykstra's quirks — she and her fellow residents have bonded over "it being near impossible to shave your legs properly in the Dykstra shower stalls," for example — but she is happy about her move to Holly Ridge. "It's exciting to be the first year of residents who get to live there," she said.
Another freshman, Gabrielle Ong Deocares, agreed and added that while it's not possible to replicate the entire floor in Dykstra that she lives on because the floors are configured differently, "I'm looking forward to developing a new community with some people from my old floor and new people from another floor." She will also be living in Holly Ridge.
Opening up Holly Ridge and Gardenia Way — both part of the De Neve Plaza complex, which also includes the Acacia View, Birch Heights , Cedar Bluff, Dogwood Glen, Evergreen Pass and Fir Grove buildings — represents a major progression in UCLA's long-term plan to accommodate more undergraduates on campus, said Peter Angelis, UCLA's assistant vice chancellor for housing and hospitality services.
Also well into construction are two residence facilities that will join the current Sproul Hall to form the Sproul Hall complex. This will include the nine-story Sproul Cove and Sproul Landing, six stories of residential space that will sit atop Sproul Presidio, a three-story support space that will feature a 450-seat multipurpose room, a 750-seat dining hall and a fitness center.
Nor are these projects the only activities underway on the Hill. Dykstra Hall's approximately 400 rooms, once emptied, will undergo extensive renovation, with the 10-story structure expected to reopen in fall 2013. The Delta Terrace and Canyon Point residence halls also will get facelifts.
And so it goes as UCLA moves forward with its long-term plans to enhance its undergraduate residential community with more — and better — accommodations, complementing what is already virtually its own small town.
"The Hill has the vibrancy of a pedestrian village," Angelis said. "And we are determined to continue to grow in a way that fulfills the demand for beds while taking a holistic view of the student experience."
By next year, when the current building program winds down, the Hill will have increased its capacity by about 1,500 undergraduates to a total of about 12,000, in either new or renovated residence halls.
Working closely with UCLA Recreation and the campus's Office of Residential Life, the Hill provides not just a place to sleep and study but numerous recreational opportunities and a rich array of student-life programs — all within a community of like-minded Bruins. Students on the Hill also have their choice of healthful and diverse dining experiences, including the newly opened Asian-themed Feast at Rieber, not to mention secure and seismically safe facilities with easy access to the campus's broad array of health and psychological services.
"We want our students to stay on campus so that they can have a more robust academic experience," Angelis said. "We don't look at housing from a purely 'housing' perspective."
Expanding and improving undergraduate housing is part of the campus's continuing transition from a commuter campus to a residential campus. UCLA currently guarantees on-campus housing to freshmen for three years and to transfer students for one year. To fulfill this guarantee as the undergraduate population grows, the university needs to keep adding housing, Angelis said.
This, he added, is both a challenge for a compact campus like UCLA — which has the most students and the smallest campus of any UC — and also an opportunity to create something really special. One of the long-term goals is to bring two-thirds of UCLA students within walking distance of campus. Currently, slightly more than half of UCLA's undergraduates live within walking distance, in university-owned and private-sector housing.
All told, the cost for these multiple projects — originally estimated at $375 million — came in at almost $150 million less because of a favorable bidding climate. The costs are covered by student housing fees and revenues from summer conferences on the Hill.
Barbara Wilson, UCLA's associate director of room operations, said that Hill residents have been extremely patient with the construction, which by contract is allowed to go from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Calls to the construction hotline, which is staffed 24/7, have been almost nil, and many of those have been simple inquiries. "I'm very thankful our residents are troupers," she said.
Regular construction updates have been and will continue to be available online; current traffic constrictions will remain in place until construction is completed.
But now is a time for celebration. As a smiling Wilson quipped as the Presidents' Day move approached, "The light at the end of the tunnel is extremely bright — it's blinding."