KWK Architects Designs $105M MN Student Housing Renovation

The company is updating the University of Minnesota’s historic Pioneer Hall, including adding beds, and providing meetings spaces and a technology center.

KWK Architects, partnering with TKDA, is in the midst of a $104.5 million transformation of the University of Minnesota’s Pioneer Hall, a historic residence hall for Gopher students.

The design architect and architecture/engineering firm-of-record, respectively, were contracted to convert the aging building into a modern living space. When finished, Pioneer Hall will offer nearly 257,000 square feet, with 85,600 square feet of renovated space and 171,400 square feet of new construction.

“The former Pioneer Hall had very limited public space and most of it was below grade,” Daniel Elliott, U of Minn.’s associate director of facilities, housing and residential life, said. “What we are able to achieve in the new design is a lot more public space for students to gather and to leave their rooms to interact and to socialize, as well as study.”

Originally built in several stages between 1928 and 1932, Pioneer Hall is among the older residence and dining halls on the Twin Cities campus. For years, officials at the school have considered whether to tear it down or renovate the building, as it was no longer compliant with building codes.

Its problems included not being handicapped accessible, having narrow corridors, small rooms and bathrooms, limited social/study space, no air-conditioning, outdated electrical and plumbing systems, and a subterranean dining facility.

Once the decision was made to renovate, the project was approved by the university’s Board of Regents in September 2016 and the schematic design given the green light last May.

New and Improved

Under the new design, housing will grow to 756 beds, and study and community spaces are being added. Additionally, the dining program will be raised up to grade level, and seating capacity expanded to 850.

The renovation also provides for full ADA Accessibility and an open lobby area featuring meeting spaces, business/technology center and recreation room.

Community-style modules with small groups of residents sharing a community bathroom and other building support spaces such a meditation rooms and lounges are also planned.

The revamped Pioneer Hall is scheduled to open for the Fall 2019 semester.