Emporia State University President Allison Garrett and other ESU officials, students and distinguished guests broke ground on the university’s new residence hall at a ceremony on Saturday morning.

The new building, currently called Market Street Residence Hall, will be located at 13th Avenue and Market Street, just east of the ESU campus. Set to open in Aug. 2019, the four-story structure will house 324 students and provide modern amenities that blend home and learning environments. The entire project was designed with students in mind, said Cass Coughlin, director of residential life.

“We included students on the design committee and conducted several meetings with students to get their feedback,” he said. “They’ll be the ones living there, so their input is important.”

James Williams, vice president for student affairs, agreed.

“Our students are the reason we exist; they are why we even have the opportunity to build this,” he said. “This will be part of their legacy after they graduate.”

“Legacy” was a word used frequently, as ESU welcomed alumni to celebrate Homecoming. The design committee considered present, future and past students when planning the new residence hall, Coughlin said.

“When we first started looking at a housing master plan in 2010, what we heard from alumni is that they just wanted to be able to come back to campus and be proud,” he said. “Hearing alumni reaction to the building already, just in the design phase, and hearing their excitement, that’s what is gratifying to me.”

Current Associated Student Government President Megan McReynolds addressed the crowd, reflecting that it was the feeling of “home” when she visited ESU as a senior in high school that convinced her to choose the university.

“Feeling at home on campus and like you’re part of a family has a lasting effect,” she said. “It makes a big difference.”

Construction on the 91,000-square-foot building begins soon. In addition to student rooms, the residence hall will include several learning common areas, music practice rooms, an art studio and classrooms.

“We want to take advantage of our proximity to Beach Music Hall and King Hall,” Williams said, referring to the buildings housing the music, theater and art departments across the street.

The design also includes patio and backyard space as well as interior design elements reflecting the Flint Hills and Tallgrass prairie.

The Market Street Residence Hall is the first new building on ESU’s campus since the completion of the student recreation center in 2002. It will replace student housing currently in use at Abigail Morse Hall. Following completion of the new residence hall, the newer additions to Morse Hall will be demolished while the central, historic building will be renovated and preserved for continued use.

“This has been a long time coming,” Garrett said. “What a wonderful occasion for ESU to build facilities for students to use and enjoy.”

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