South Halls renovations, addition approved, scheduled for spring start

March 16, 2012

HERSHEY, Pa. -- A major renovation to all four duplex residence-hall buildings of the 55-year-old South Halls complex at University Park was approved Friday (March 16) by Penn State's Board of Trustees. Totaling $94.1 million and funded by a combination of Housing and Food Service reserves and debt to be repaid by housing, construction will begin later this spring and continue through December 2014. The project includes the addition of a new residence hall and significant, long-deferred infrastructure upgrades.

"The conditions at South Halls are impacting the comfort of current students and the perceptions of prospective students and their parents," said David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business. "This renovation will create 32 living-learning communities and will enable us to move all of our sororities into one complex. The addition of air conditioning will enhance our summer housing and conference operations."

South Halls' four buildings -- encompassing Cooper, Cross, Ewing, Haller, Hibbs, Hoyt, Lyons and Stephens residence halls -- were built in 1957 and have had no significant renovations or upgrades since that time. In March 2011 trustees appointed the firm Barton Malow to design the entirety of the renovation project, including new energy-efficient systems and new roofs. In November 2011 trustees approved the firm to design the new residence hall.

Currently housing more than 1,000 students, including half of Penn State's sororities, the upgraded complex will address imminent structural concerns, such as irreparable window hinging, deteriorating floors, failing heat systems and leaking water pipes and drains. Renovations also will transform current gang bathrooms into clusters of private bathroom facilities, a standard now expected in college and university housing. Each sorority will have a suite with a kitchenette and dining and lounge areas. New ductwork and piping will be hidden behind exterior facades in upgraded entranceways, and a new sidewalk layout will offer easier pedestrian access to East College Avenue.

Renovations will necessitate the loss of 74 beds in the four existing buildings. The new residence hall, incorporated into the overall plan, will stand at the intersection of Shortlidge and McKean roads. Presently unnamed, it will add 45,000 square feet in four above-ground floors and house 211 beds in 108 rooms. Some bedrooms will be designed with ADA and hearing-impaired features.

In addition, Redifer Commons will receive a small renovation and addition to accommodate additional seating needs and private small-group dining options as well as offer more food-preparation space. On the first floor, two new small dining areas and administrative offices -- relocated from central back-of-house locations better suited for food-prep efficiency -- will overlook East College Avenue. Ground floor changes include two new lobby areas to walk-up entrances, also off East College Avenue.

The first phase of the project will commence in spring 2012 with the renovation of Haller and Lyons halls and the start of the new building's construction. Renovations of Ewing and Cross halls will begin in spring 2013, followed by Cooper and Hoyt halls in early 2014, with Hibbs and Stephens halls and Redifer Dining Commons rounding out the project's last phase in spring 2014 through the end of the year.

Housing rates for new or renovated South Halls rooms have not been set but likely will be in line with other newly renovated space on campus. Housing rates for the 2013-2014 academic year will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval in fall 2012.

Renderings by Barton Malow are available at

  • A rendering by the firm Barton Malow illustrates an upgraded entrance of a South Halls residence hall. New ductwork and piping will be hidden behind exterior facades in the entranceways. To view additional renderings of the planned renovations and addition, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 16, 2012