$33 million UNC Asheville residence project construction put on hold for nesting owls

nesting owls
The nesting owls (WLOS-TV image)

UNC Asheville officials has put construction on hold for several residence halls to help protect a family of great horned owls, WLOS-TV reports.

School officials made the decision to delay construction after the birth of two owls on campus about a month ago.

Bill Haggard, vice-chancellor for student affairs, said construction could be delayed for several weeks.

The baby owls, born on campus, are still learning to fly.

The owls were about 45 yards away from the planned site for the new residence halls, Haggard said.

“The construction on this side of the road we have delayed,” Haggard said, “because we’re all very concerned about the owl family, the great horned owl family we have and we’re fortunate enough to have.”

Workers planned to start transforming a parking lot into the new residence complex a couple weeks ago, Haggard said.

The estimated costs of the projects are $12.4 million for the renovations to Highsmith Union and $33.8 million for construction of the six-building residence project.

They already put up sticks with pink ribbons outlining the construction fence. The building of that fence was also delayed until the mom, dad and two babies fly away.

The student residences will be the first apartment-style housing on campus and increase available on-campus housing by 294 beds or by 20 percent when the project is completed in summer 2018, the university said in an earlier announcement.

unc asheville student residences
UNC Asheville student residences (rendering from Hanbury)


The new student housing option will be built next to Brown Hall between University Heights and W.T. Weaver Blvd. Concurrent construction will take place on the other side of Brown Hall with renovations to Highsmith Union and the addition of a multipurpose room that will connect to the catering kitchen in Brown Hall.

The architect for the new residences is Hanbury.

The Highsmith Union has been designed by Little Diversified.

Highsmith Union
Highsmith Union

The Highsmith Union renovations will bring the student experience to the front and center of the building, which was constructed in 2004. A glass-front student-life porch will provide meeting spaces and open areas for student organizations, as well as an area to showcase a student art gallery and share the work of the Intercultural Center. Two fireplaces and a coffee shop will contribute to the warm and inviting atmosphere, and a 5,000 square-foot multipurpose room will increase the university’s ability to host campus and community events, from large lectures to banquets and conferences.

Both the student residences and Highsmith Union renovation are self-liquidating projects. The Highsmith renovations are funded through the student-debt service fee approved by the on-campus Fee Committee, UNC Asheville Board of Trustees and UNC System Board of Governors, and the students residences are funded through room charges. State appropriations cannot be used to renovate or construct student unions or residence halls. Student input has been essential to both projects, from the fee discussions through the feasibility study, market study, student surveys, and workshops and community meetings.

UNC Asheville will continue construction projects through 2018 and 2019 with renovations planned for Owen Hall and Carmichael Hall funded by the 2016 Connect NC Bond. These academic buildings have been in continuous use for 37 years and 50 years respectively, with no major renovations or improvements. The renovation project will allow UNC Asheville to rethink and reinvent these spaces so that they combine to facilitate collaboration among multiple academic disciplines across campus, giving students a competitive advantage as they join a modern workforce dependent on innovation and flexibility across disciplines.

The campus community will receive frequent updates throughout the construction process, and the university will keep the public informed as these projects move forward. Additional information including images as the projects progress will be available at facilities.unca.edu/construction. For more information, contact campusconstruction@unca.edu.


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