Lyon College set to expand, build two new dorms - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Lyon College set to expand, build two new dorms

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BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Lyon College in Batesville is preparing for future growth.

The college announced plans recently to make a few changes to the campus by adding new student housing.

Lyon's board of trustees agreed in October 2013 to build two new residence halls that will house 100 students each. Jon Vestal, the vice president for institutional advancement, said these plans fall in line with the college's strategic plan to handle growth.

"Currently we're at 600 students, and we plan to grow to 800 students by 2017," Vestal said. "We've approved the addition of 200 beds, which takes us from a capacity of 400 beds on campus to just over 600 beds. That will add an 80 percent occupancy rate. That will keep us about where we need to be to keep our commitment to be a residential campus."

Plans call for the two new residence halls to be built on either side of the Young House complex on the east side of campus, creating a housing quad for upperclassmen.

"Our plan is to have two buildings, each about 29,000 square feet, that will house a hundred students each for a grant total of 200," Vestal said. "These are designed to be just about as good as or better than anything on any campus across the state of Arkansas and in the Southeast."

He said the layout of the buildings is unlike any of the other dorms on campus.

"We've gone with a ‘house system,'" Vestal explained. "Essentially we have rooms around the perimeters and other facilities, living spaces and restrooms on the interior, and really that promotes community and involvement with other students and we really want to foster that here at Lyon."

The college also sought out student feedback while the architects and designers drew up plans for the new facilities. Junior Caitlin Campbell, the student government president, was asked by administrators to provide her input on the project. Her main suggestion, she said, was to provide plenty of common areas for students where they can get together, talk or study.

"These residence halls have large areas where people can just hang out, just kind of live in the same space and have a place to call home," Campbell said. "It's the best way to meet people. It just really enhances your college experience outside the classroom."

Though the college has not finalized any of the renderings or blueprints yet, Campbell said she and her friends are impressed with the plans so far.

"[My friends] are really excited," she said, "especially about the semi-private bathrooms that are still cleaned by maintenance but you can still shut the door behind you. It's a big drawing card."

The college estimates that the project will cost about $12 million. Vestal said Lyon will rely on its donors to fund this large-scale construction project, just as it did when it rebuilt the student center, Edwards Commons, solely with monetary donations after a fire destroyed the previous facility in 2010.

"Our alumni, our board members and other friends of the college have really stepped up to the plate and said we want to help out with this project," Vestal explained. "Myself, the president and others will continue to fundraise for this project as we work toward a 2015 opening date."

The new residence halls are slated to open in August 2015, which disappoints Campbell since she'll graduate before she can live in the facilities that she had a hand in planning.

"I'm from Batesville," she said, "so I have a brother coming up through college as soon as I leave. Maybe he'll here [at Lyon], and maybe I'll get to come back and visit."

In addition to the new facilities, Lyon College also plans to fully renovate the Brown and Barton Apartments on campus. Those upgrades should be completed around the same time that the new dorms open.

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