Two-year residency requirement set to begin in fall of 2021

By Jane McClure

As an atypical academic year begins, the University of Saint Thomas is opening two new residence halls on its north campus in time for the start of classes on September 9. Jim Brummer, the university’s associate vice president for facilities, outlined the progress on the projects for the Union Park District Council (UPDC) Land Use Committee on August 17.

Finishing touches were being applied on the new five-story Tommie North and Tommie East residence halls to get them ready for students, who are being offered both in-person and online classes this fall. Furniture was moved in, landscaping installed and new sidewalks poured along Selby and Cleveland avenues.

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Tommie North at the corner of Cleveland and Selby avenues is the university’s large new residence for first-year students.
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Tommie East is located on Cleveland near Ashland Avenue just south of the chapel and is for mainly second-year students.

Tommie North is located at the corner of Cleveland and Selby avenues just north of the Chapel of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It will house a new dining facility and classroom space on its first floor, with housing for approximately 480 first-year students above. There are multiple, single-gender pods on each floor. Each pod houses around 36 students who live in double-occupancy bedrooms and share two large bathrooms. The building has 161 interior bicycle storage spaces and 115 underground parking spaces.

Tommie East, which is located on Cleveland near Ashland Avenue just south of the chapel, has visitor space on its first floor with housing for 260 mainly second-year students above. There are two pods per floor arranged in multiple clusters of double-occupancy bedrooms and bathrooms that feed into a main living area and kitchen. There is a laundry on each floor, with lounge space, study rooms and a game room on the second floor. The building has 143 bike spaces, 85 below-grade parking spaces and six apartments for visitors.

The university plans to require on-campus residency for first- and second-year students beginning in the fall of 2021. UST currently just encourages students to live on-campus for their first two years. About 90 percent of first-year students and 45 percent of second-year students live on-campus now.

University neighbors have long pushed for a residency requirement, citing the disruptive behavior of some off-campus students. UPDC committee members and neighbors said on August 17 that they were pleased to see new housing and more efforts to keep younger students on campus.

 

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Tommie North and East are the first new dormitories built at the university since Morrison Hall in 1998. Saint Thomas tore down the John Paul II residence hall and a faculty residence, which were both constructed in the ’70s, to make way for the new dormitories.

Construction of the dormitories and the new Iversen Center for Faith began in 2019. Iversen Center, which is built below grade and tied into the chapel, was finished earlier this summer. A tunnel will connect the two new halls and Iversen.

Tommie North and East are the first new dormitories built at the university since Morrison Hall in 1998. Saint Thomas tore down the John Paul II residence hall and a faculty residence, which were both constructed in the ’70s, to make way for the new dormitories. The university also renovated Ireland and Brady halls as part of the project.

Completion of the projects brought an end to months of noise, disruption and spillover construction parking on the north campus. Neighbors had to rely on updates and reach out via email or phone if there were problems, since in-person gatherings were not possible due to COVID-19.

University officials expressed appreciation for neighbors’ patience at the UPDC committee meeting. One issue still being addressed is the replacement of the 140-plus trees lost due to construction.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t do the developments without losing trees,” Brummer said. There have been 125 replacement trees already planted, with more coming.

Parking in the two new residence halls are not for the students who live there, which raised some questions from neighbors on August 17. The parking spaces at Tommie North are for faculty and staff parking, while those at Tommie East are for admissions and visitors.

Saint Thomas has historically discouraged first-year resident students from bringing vehicles to campus and has asked them to use other modes of transportation. Resident student parking permits are awarded and sold through a lottery, with priority given to upperclassmen.

UPDC board member Scott Berger said he and other bicyclists are eager to see the southbound Cleveland bike lane reopened. It has been blocked due to campus construction, pushing riders out into traffic. “It’s a good bike lane when it’s open,” he said.

Brummer said the Cleveland bike lane will be reopened as soon as possible.

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