A consulting firm hired by the University of Wyoming has concluded that UW's residence halls do not meet the expectations of today’s students, putting the university at a competitive disadvantage with other institutions.

As a result, the consultants, along with a planning team of UW students, administrators and community members, are recommending replacement of the residence halls -- the youngest of which are approaching 50 years old -- in a phased approach that would unfold over about a decade.

The plan was presented to the UW Board of Trustees, local legislators, and other community leaders during a luncheon gathering on Wednesday.. The document, crafted in response to a legislative directive, must be presented to the Wyoming State Legislature by October. It may be viewed at https://app.box.com/s/y9m0lnij857ddwqnz2twqpmow8s15pol.

Like many other institutions, UW requires most first-year students to live in university housing to encourage academic success. The university’s residence halls currently contain just over 2,000 beds in traditional dormitory-style configurations, with primarily double-occupancy rooms and communal restrooms.

The plan calls for gradually replacing the aging structures with residence halls offering a variety of housing options, including semi- and full-suite units in which no more than four students would share a restroom. The new buildings combined would house 2,000 students and also would include study rooms, lounges, living rooms, game rooms and laundry facilities.

Of 11 universities in the region -- including Colorado State University, Montana State University, the University of Northern Colorado and Utah State University -- UW is the only institution that doesn’t offer at least one form of suite-style housing.

“(UW’s) residential facilities are not on par with the quality of academic facilities, and that is a key factor to consider with regard to recruitment and retention,” the document’s introduction states.

The plan also calls for replacing the Washakie Dining Center with a new food service and dining facility. The current facility isn’t big enough to accommodate expected numbers of students. A separate bakery facility and late-night dining operation also are envisioned.

The preferred plan calls for a total of 10 new buildings organized around two broader neighborhoods -- east and west. Central courtyards would provide open space for each neighborhood, and a central plaza would provide gathering areas between the two neighborhoods. Building heights would vary between four and six floors.

The plan also calls for construction of a parking structure, east of the Information Technology Center, to provide 600 parking spaces to accommodate residence hall and other campus vehicles.

In addition, King Street would be converted into a tree-lined pedestrian area called the Cowboy Corridor.

The plan calls for phased demolition and construction moving from east to west, starting with construction of the parking structure, demolition of Crane Hall and the Crane-Hill Dining Center, and construction of three new residence halls with a total of 700 beds. This phased approach would allow the university to maintain enough beds to accommodate expected numbers of students throughout the anticipated 10-year construction timeline.

While UW student housing construction and operations have been largely self-supporting in the past, the proposed residence hall replacement project likely would require legislative funding. If student housing fees were raised to fully cover the effort, student housing costs would likely be so high that attending UW would be cost prohibitive.

If the Board of Trustees and lawmakers decide to proceed with a Level 2 study of the proposal, it would include a complete financial analysis.