Demolition of unoccupied dorms planned at ENMU

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Eastern New Mexico University students Dallas Ellsworth, left, and Caleb Morse look at murals on the third-floor walls of DeBaca Hall dormitory. DeBaca Hall, now used only for storage, is one of three old residence halls scheduled to be torn down this year.

Argen Duncan

Tearing down three dormitories and building a new one is more cost-effective than renovations, Eastern New Mexico University administrators have said.

ENMU regents voted to demolish Lincoln, DeBaca and Chaves halls, all unoccupied dorms, at their meeting Jan. 19. President Steven Gamble expects them to approve construction of a new dorm on the site of Lincoln Hall at their meeting Friday.

The state Higher Education Department must also approve the projects.

Vice President of Business Affairs Scott Smart said the buildings were empty because of their age. All were built in the 1950s or ‘60s.

During the Vietnam War era, he said, 800 to 900 students lived on campus. When that number dropped, the extra space was mothballed and fell into disrepair.

DeBaca Hall has been used for storage, Smart said, but now its roof is failing.

Lincoln Hall has bathrooms down the halls instead of attached to rooms, which isn’t what students want, he continued. With Lincoln’s old construction, Smart said, tearing it down is better than remodeling it.

“It’s a better, wiser expenditure of our funds,” he said.

Also, Chaves Hall has severe plumbing and electrical problems.

Buildings constructed about 50 years ago can’t supply current electrical needs because they weren’t designed to handle appliances such as the microwaves and hairdryers most students have now, Smart said. He said it’s better to build a new dorm that will last for 30 years than rewire an old one.

The planned new dormitory is to replace the aging Bernalillo Hall, which Smart said also has plumbing and electrical problems and bathrooms at the end of the hall. Bernalillo Hall was built in the ‘60s.

The new dorm is expected to house around 340 students, mostly freshmen, and have two rooms sharing a bathroom. It’s set to open in August 2012.

Construction is estimated at $12 million, which Smart said a loan repaid by regular room rates would supply.

Demolition and debris removal, plus work on the Greyhound Arena ceiling, is expected to cost $5.9 million, according to university information.

The university is finishing repayment of a bond, and President Steven Gamble expects to take the money that went to that bond every year and get another bond to pay for the demolition.

“We didn’t have that money available until right now,” he said.

Also, Gamble said planners believe contractors in the state need business now, so the university can get the work done at a lower cost.

Gamble plans to start on the design of the new building soon.

The sites of DeBaca and Chaves halls are to become “green space,” probably with grass and xeriscaping, Smart said. Gamble said the university doesn’t have the money for new buildings there, and administrators prefer renovation over new construction.

“We think that’s good stewardship, that’s what we’ve been encouraged to do by the state, and we can accommodate the number of students with the facilities we have now,” he said.

Tentative Timeline:

• Spring 2011: Asbestos removal in Lincoln Hall

• Summer 2011: Demolition of Lincoln Hall

• Early fall 2011: Beginning of new dormitory construction

• Late summer 2011: Asbestos removal in DeBaca Hall

• Fall 2011: Demolition of DeBaca Hall

• Late summer to early fall 2011: Asbestos removal in Chaves Hall

• Fall 2011: Demolition of Chaves Hall

• August 2012: Opening of new dormitory