Willamette University Breaks Ground For Innovative Residential Commons

Kaneko CommonsSet to open at Willamette University late in 2006, the 65,000 square-foot, $13 million Kaneko Commons project will include a 150-175 bed addition to the existing Kaneko Hall and will feature suites and apartments, housing for a faculty member, an enlarged dining facility and upscale meeting and activity spaces.

"The development of this innovative, on-campus living community will distinguish Willamette from other universities in the West," said Robert Hawkinson, dean of campus life. "While the design components are distinctive, it's the integration of the curricular and co-curricular lives of our students that sets it apart. Adding live-in faculty brings increased cultural programming and an opportunity for students to engage outside the classroom."

While relatively new to the Willamette campus, the residential commons concept is firmly rooted in the college models at Oxford and Cambridge (13th century), and more recently, Harvard and Yale (1930's).

In the spring of 2001, following 18 months of research, debate, and student and faculty interviews, the University Campus Life Task Force recommended that Willamette reinvent its residential living model and create "commons" distinguished by flexible, graduated housing arrangements, self-governance and substantial faculty presence, including a live-in faculty member and his/her family.

Hawkinson said, "The schematic design of the Kaneko Commons is the result of six years of comprehensive research and planning for the reinvention of residential living at Willamette University. More than 70 students, faculty and staff have been involved with the project - serving on committees, visiting other institutions, and conducting focus groups with their peers. Members of the Willamette Board of Trustees and University alumni have also been actively involved."

The Kaneko Commons will have spaces to accommodate individual and group social and learning activities. This will include study rooms, classrooms, multi-purpose areas, traditional television lounges, and laundry facilities. These spaces, all centrally located, will also serve as the "physical" connection between the existing Kaneko Hall and the newly constructed housing. Circulation patterns and incidental meeting and study spaces will also be designed to encourage community. Dining options will include apartment kitchens, community kitchens and enlarged food service and dining area.

Kaneko Hall, the residential wing of Tokyo International University of America (TIUA), was selected as the site for the first residential commons. The Kaneko Commons project will add a new standard of community vitality for the 200 Willamette University students already residing in Kaneko Hall, and the 150-plus residents who will move in to the new facility. In support of the Kaneko Commons project, Tokyo International University of America (TIUA) made a substantial contribution to Willamette University in May 2003. The project will be funded by a combination of cash gifts and tax-exempt municipal bonds.

"Throughout the design process of the Kaneko Commons," Hawkinson said, "the University has reinforced its commitment to sustainability. Although many important decisions have yet to be made, the Kaneko Commons project has the unique opportunity to set a dual precedent for sustainable and quality design and construction practices for future residential commons projects."

Design Architects - Zimmer Gunsul Frasca
Contractor - Hoffman Construction
Structural - Degenkolb Engineers
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineers - PAE Engineers

(For more information, please call Robert Hawkinson, dean of campus life, at 503-370-6447, Kristen Grainger, vice president and executive assistant to the president, at 503-375-5474, or Gunnar Gundersen, executive vice president of Tokyo International University, at 503-510-5933.)

The groundbreaking ceremony will take place Saturday, May 14, at 2 p.m. in the area adjacent to the TIUA tennis courts. TIUA is accessed from 12th Street near the skybridge at 12th and Mill Street.