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August 13, 2014

Women’s Quad renovation changes ‘everything but the foundation’ (+photos and video)

The mothers and sisters of the freshmen moving into the Quad this week likely would not recognize the inside of the three dorms — Sims, McClintock and Wade Hampton. The 15-month, $29 million renovation brings new life to three aging dorms.

Sweating through his shirt and heaving a giant tub Wednesday, Kevin Lang helped move his daughter into her new dorm room on the University of South Carolina campus.

McKenzie Lang was one of the freshmen moving into the Women’s Quad, three dorms built between 55 and 75 years ago that have been transformed by a 15-month-long, $29.2 million renovation.

What’s changed?

“Everything but the foundation,” said Gene Luna, USC’s associate vice president for student affairs and academic support. “We have literally gone in and gutted these buildings.”

The renovation was part of USC’s 10-year master plan for renovating its dorms and buildings as the university tries to attract students and grow its enrollment.

At the same time, the university, which requires that most freshmen live on campus, faces more competition in the housing market for students, who increasingly want better accommodations with better amenities.

A boom in privately owned student housing has taken place near campus. The Hub, for example, officially opens this week on Main Street, adding 850 student beds to the area – the first of at least six new upscale downtown housing developments geared toward USC students to open.

Not your mother’s Quad

One selling point for the Women’s Quad is historic: Its location.

The Quad is near the center of USC’s downtown Columbia campus, close to the Russell House student union.

However, the mothers and sisters of the freshmen moving into the Quad this week likely would not recognize the inside of the three dorms — Sims, McClintock and Wade Hampton.

The formerly separate buildings that make up the Quad now are connected, construction that added about 50 more beds to the dorms, allowing nearly 600 women to live in the buildings.

Inside each room, new furniture includes lofted beds, desks and wardrobes with doors that are dry-erase boards so roommates can write messages to each other.

All three dorms, which are solely for women students, now have elevators and suite-style rooms, where four students, living in two adjacent rooms, share a bathroom. That is a change for McClintock and Wade Hampton, which previously had one bathroom for each hall that was communally shared.

Keyless-entry locks allows students to enter their dorm rooms with their student ID and an access code, rather than a key.

It’s a small detail that incoming freshman Lang of Cary, N.C., is fond of — she does not like using keys.

Communal bathrooms? Out

The Women’s Quad was closed during the 2013-14 academic year for renovation, displacing the students who would have lived there. The reopening of the Quad will give USC flexibility to start its next renovation, set to take place at Bates West, Luna said.

Tempest Bouknight-Davis, a senior at USC who is a resident mentor at the Women’s Quad, witnessed the transformation of the aging dorm complex.

Bouknight-Davis lived in the Women’s Quad for two years before the renovations. At that time, she said, freshmen dreaded the communal hall bathrooms. Eventually, the women adapted to them, getting to know each other better after having to shower and brush their teeth in the same space, she said.

Since the hall bathrooms are gone, that camaraderie now will have to be made up in the lounges that have been added to the dorms, she said.

Some new features in the renovated dorms also cater to academics, Bouknight-Davis said.

For example, “If they don’t want to go to the library, they can just go down the hallway to one of our study rooms,” she said.

USC’s Luna said the changes are meant to bring a feeling of home to the dorms.

“If a student can be comfortable where they’re living on campus, they’re much more likely to be successful in their academic and social pursuits,” Luna said.

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