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Demolition of WKU Dorm Will Make Way for First-Year Village

Lisa Autry

As Western Kentucky University focuses on retaining and graduating more students, a housing project is getting underway to help the school achieve those goals. 

Demolition begins this week on Bemis Lawrence Hall to make way for the new first-year village that's designed to enhance the college experience for freshmen by connecting students with similar interests. 

The first-year village will feature pod-style housing, social areas, study rooms, and faculty and student mentors.

"The whole idea is to help them with the transition from high school into college and to increase our persistence rates," said university spokesman Bob Skipper.

Bemis can house nearly 400 students, but University Spokesman Bob Skipper says its demolition shouldn’t cause a housing crunch.

"This is all part of a ten-year master plan that Housing and Residence Life has put together," explained Skipper. "We opened Hilltopper Hall last year which gave us enough swing space to take care of the student displaced from the closing of Bemis."

The first-year village is expected to open to students in fall 2021.  That’s when the Barnes-Campbell dormitory will be razed to make room for the second building that will make up the first-year village.  Both Bemis and Barnes were built in 1966 and have reached the end of their service life.

The 48-million-dollar project is being funded through the WKU Student Life Foundation.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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