A three-year, $13 million project to upgrade a 1960s-era residence hall on the Augustana College campus is in its final phase.
The Rock Island college is finishing up an almost complete renovation of the Westerlin Residence Hall, located just yards away from the PepsiCo Recreation Center, in an area called "up campus," according to Sam Schlouch, senior communications director at Augustana.
This area originally belonged to the Weyerhauser family, of the lumber business fame, and it's near the former Weyerhauser family home, called "House on the Hill."
The family gave Augustana the property in the 1950s, and the residence hall was completed in 1963.
It served students well for decades but became dated, said Schlouch, who is a graduate of Augustana and previously lived in Erickson Residence Center, another living choice adjacent to Westerlin.
This project originally started in 2015 in the Jenny Lind wing. It progressed to the Immanuel wing in 2016, and now, the Westerlin wing, named for J. Martin & Elsie Westerlin.
Brandon Wilkerson started school as a freshman in 2015. He lived in Westerlin but not the new wing.
"I had one of the bigger rooms I'd seen on college visits, but it was older. You could tell from the tile floor and dated windows," he said. "I did have a lot of fun, there, though."
Wilkerson noticed the difference from the renovation when he visited friends in that area.
"I saw the new floors, the new windows, and, especially, the air-conditioning," he said.
The 19-year-old from Stelle, Illinois, will be a junior this fall. He is majoring in math and secondary education, with the goal of being a high school math teacher.
Westerlin improvements began with a new roof over the entire structure, home to about 455 first-year Augustana students. There are new ceilings, a fire protection system and, importantly, air conditioning.
All windows are being replaced as well, Schlouch said, adding that after the halls opened in the early 1960s, not much renovation was completed over the years.
"It was time, certainly," he said.
The Westerlin wing renovated this year hosts about 100 students. The traditional setup is a hallway, with rooms alternately located off both sides.
Both freshman and sophomore students are encouraged to live in the halls, Schlouch said, as it's thought the style leads to a feeling of community.
Juniors, on the other hand, are invited to the suite-style structures on campus, which include kitchens.
The Westerlin hall is convenient to the College Hill district of Rock Island, but it also includes a convenience store inside, operated by Augustana. There's a spacious lounge and a new fitness center, AugiePlex, filled with cardio and weight equipment and space for dance.
The feedback has been positive from the student residents, Schlouch said. Completing this final phase will put all students in the same sort of living space, so should reduce any jealously, or envy, exhibited in previous years.
"These improvements are what students are accustomed to having these days," he said.