MISSOULA — Enrollment grows steadily at the University of Montana, yet you’ll find resident space dwindling as a third of Craig Hall falls to the ground.
The demolition will make space for a new dining hall, which will open its doors in 2024. In the meantime, students and staff are left navigating a messy campus.
“So I either have to walk around this way to get a class or go around that way,” said student Robbie McKellar, motioning to the demo site.
“It's hard! They took my shortcut away so now I have to go all the way around,” echoed student Kat Carter.
Nodding in agreement with her classmate, Nicole Service told MTN News that all the construction is a hassle.
Constructed in 1952, Craig Hall housed thousands of UM students over the years but now, nothing more than a pile of memories takes up the storied lot.
“Craig Hall is a special place for me,” said UM spokesperson Dave Kuntz. “That's where I lived and was introduced to this university about a decade and a half ago, so it's sad to see one of these buildings go down, at least part of it in this case.”
When one building comes down, another goes up, "a campus that’s under construction is a campus that’s growing, and that’s where we want to be,” said Kuntz.
According to Kuntz, housing will be tight for the next few semesters — but not unavailable — as the University of Montana reworks its layout.
“You can't have construction, especially on a university campus, that doesn't create a little bit of chaos, but we're prepared to deal with it,” Kuntz noted.
“Deal with it” they are and will be until the project’s completion in 2024.
Funded entirely by the university through private bonds issued in 2019, the new dining hall will be host to more food choices and amenities.
Despite increased building and labor costs, Kuntz said the time is now for construction, especially if they want to keep up with their peers in academia.
“We're starting now because we need to,” explained Kuntz. “This university is in a position to grow and we need to be able to make infrastructure investments today to be able to continue to grow into the future.”
Change is coming and buildings will fall, but a new dining hall offers a new chapter in UM’s book.