Western Michigan University
wmu french hall

Western Michigan University will tear down three small residence halls

April 26, 2021
Razing the buildings, known as "the Little Three," will clear the way for further progress on the university's Hilltop Village campus development.

Western Michigan University is preparing to tear down three small residence halls as it clears the way for redevelopment of the southern part of the main campus in Kalamazoo.

The university says it has erected construction fences around the residence halls known as the "Little Three"--Davis, Zimmerman and French--and is scheduled to begin demolition of the buildings in early May.

Each of the three residences halls and Davis Dining were constructed more than six decades ago. The oldest, Davis, opened in 1954, Davis Dining and Zimmerman in 1955 and French in 1960.

Western Michigan is re-imagining the entire southern portion of the Main Campus with a development dubbed "Hilltop Village." It will include new student housing, a new student center and dining facility, retail venues and several other major building efforts.

As part of the plannng for Hilltop Village, members of a campus tree advisory committee helped identify a burr oak that is at least 200 years old, predating both the university and Michigan's statehood.

As construction of the multi-year project moves forward, the tree—measuring a diameter of 4 1/2 feet—has been identified for protection at the site; a few other smaller trees moved to other locations, says project manager Shannon Sauer-Becker.

"We have been very selective with what we are taking out and will be protecting what will remain," says Sauer-Becker. "There won't be any heavy equipment in the courtyard. We highlighted what might be particularly valuable to maintain, and construction will take these natural features into account."

Todd Barkman, professor of biological sciences and a member of the campus tree advisory committee, says the historic burr oak will be visible in the landscape view near the new student center after being secluded in a courtyard since the 1950s.

"There is no better historical representation of pre-European settlement in Kalamazoo," Barkman says, noting the tree is a significant teaching tool on campus. "How often can you go out and show something that was in Michigan before 1812?"

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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