Lottie Jane makeover is far from over

The never-ending saga of campus renovations continues.
Lottie Jane’s purely cosmetic facelift was supposed to end after extending to the building’s west wing. However, renovation plans pivoted once Campus Services realized the makeover would need to go much deeper than the surface.
Original renovation plans for the building included a fresh coat of paint, new carpet and new furniture for the lobby, study lounges and bedrooms. The lobby was scheduled to receive the first makeover, then the east and north halls, and finally the west halls, which would have to be closed down and completed during the 2023-2024 academic year. The lobby’s makeover began during the 2022-2023 academic year’s winter break and finished shortly after the spring semester began. The new lobby was well received by residents, inspiring faith for the remainder of the renovations. Over the 2023 summer break, the east and north sides were completed. Both new and returning residents voiced their approval of Lottie’s new look.
The temporary closure of the building’s west wing was certainly a cause for concern. Where would the rest of the residents go? Could the long-standing sense of building community persevere with only half occupancy? What would happen to the resident assistants who were already hired for the following academic year? How would this affect the building’s level of accessibility? Would residents have access to the communal kitchen, exercise room and laundry room — all of which are located on the west side?
In an interview with Associate Vice President of Campus Services Melissa France, she assured that there were plenty of available housing options for students displaced by the closure. Occupancy rates have not recovered to their pre-COVID-19 numbers, so the entirety of Lottie Jane Mabee Hall was not needed.
After the public announcement of the closure, the Residence Life Department notified the new resident assistants that they would not lose their recently acquired jobs.
The Housing Department would leave parts of the west halls unlocked so residents could still access the aforementioned amenities.
According to Lottie’s Senior Resident Assistant Bethany Hoskins, the dorm’s community had the opportunity to grow deeper, as having a lower occupancy allowed everyone to get to know each resident more intimately than if the building had been full.
Unfortunately, the closure of the west side severely damaged Lottie’s accessibility levels. While the west wing sports the building’s only elevator, the east and north sides are only accessible via staircase. Hoskins, among many others, expressed disappointment in the university’s lack of urgency in making campus buildings more accessible and hopes that future renovations will work on improving this aspect.
As current Lottie residents could tell you, the west wing is closed, but no construction has started. With the 2023-2024 academic year’s winter break having come and gone, many were confused about what had happened to the original makeover plans. With the east and north halls getting their desperately needed facelift, the dated bathrooms stuck out like a sore thumb. This, among other things, influenced Campus Services to draft a new plan for the renovations, one that is bigger and better.
The Collegian reached out to President Brad Carson for comment on the new renovation plans. “Lottie Jane is a historic and important building on this campus that TU intends to preserve and modernize. We are currently exploring several modernization projects to the facility, including a complete cosmetic refresh, a new HVAC system, significant restroom upgrades, and a faculty in residence apartment,” Carson stated.
Besides a simple makeover, Lottie residents have long asked for updates to the building’s bathrooms. So far, in the preliminary designs, the bathrooms have been one of the main focuses. Lottie’s current bathrooms are communal style, each having a few toilet stalls and showers. A wheelchair-accessible shower and toilet stall is included in one bathroom on each floor. Although functional, these bathrooms are extremely dated as the last renovation occurred in the 1990s.
Having lived in the building for three years, I can verify that the bathrooms were one of the most negatively discussed topics surrounding Lottie. Thankfully, the new renovation plans address this. Both France and Hoskins are excited for the future bathrooms. The plans center around making the bathrooms more inviting and private. Vanity-style, getting ready areas will be added, and to make the communal bathrooms a little more private, the current stall-style of the toilets and showers will be transformed into room-like structures, similar to bathrooms seen in homes. Wheelchair-accessible showers and toilets will remain in one bathroom on each floor.
Another large project the renovation plans to take on is the basement. As it stands, the uninviting basement includes a guest bathroom, kitchen, communal space, exercise room, storm shelter and laundry room. Over the years, many residents expressed their fear of the basement, saying it was dark and scary. The current renovation plans attempt to make the basement a pleasant space. They expand the kitchen, opening it up to the communal space and increasing accessibility by removing the narrow swinging doors that currently stand. While the laundry room will keep the same number of washing and drying machines, the plans will reduce the size of the room, making space for guest bathrooms that would be removed with the expansion of the kitchen.
The exercise room will receive an overhaul, making it a better space to work out. The university is currently looking at how to supply more equipment to the room including stationary machines, free weights and fitness app memberships. Women sometimes face the challenge of feeling uncomfortable in public fitness spaces, so an updated exercise room would allow the residents of Lottie to maintain healthy habits and a certain level of comfort at the same time.
Another feature the renovation plans to introduce is one unique to only a single residence hall on campus: the Faculty in Residence Program. Professor Emily Contois is the current Faculty in Residence in the university’s First Year Experience residence hall, LaFortune House. Having lived in LaFortune last semester, I have seen firsthand the positive aspects of the program and was excited to hear about plans to expand it to the other halls on campus. The plans for adding the Faculty in Residence program to Lottie include a renovation that combines a few rooms in the building into a fully functioning, two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.
The renovation also includes an update to the heating and air-conditioning system. Currently, Lottie runs on a two-pipe system meaning either the heating or the air-conditioning is on at all times, depending on the temperature outside. An updated, four-pipe system would allow residents to better control the temperature of their rooms — a must-have feature for the Midwest’s wacky weather. Residents will no longer have to suffer in steaming rooms during those warm Oklahoma winter days. While it may not seem like such a big deal, it is a big project for the renovators to take on and it will make the space more comfortable for everyone.
While there are currently no plans to make the east and north halls of the building more accessible, plans are still in the very early stages and France informed me that she is dedicated to making the space inclusive for all.
One caveat worth mentioning is that these renovation plans are preliminary and subject to change. Residents will have a say in these plans as they have in the past, so Lottie residents — be on the lookout for the opportunity to express your opinions. Though my 2024 graduation will prevent me from seeing this makeover for myself, I remain excited for the future Lottie residents who will get to experience the new and improved hall.

tucollegian | Collegian

tucollegian | Collegian
tucollegian | Collegian

Post Author: Peighton Johnson