Student Housing

Two years after closing, Oliver Hall will eventually be demolished. 

More than a year after the University of Kansas announced that 55-year-old Oliver residence hall would not reopen, KU received approval last May from the Kansas Board of Regents to demolish the nine-story hall, possibly as early as next school year. Until this point, KU Housing declined to say whether the hall would be torn down.

KU anticipated the demolition would cost $2.2 million, according to the capital improvements request. KU also proposed to finance the demolition, in part, with university parking fees, which typically go to pay for rehabilitation of parking lots and garages on campus. 

KU Transportation and Parking Director Donna Hultine said the parking funds are for a parking lot to be built over Oliver hall, but the project is on hold and there is no cost estimate. 

The new parking lot is not listed on the capital improvement requests, while other parking lot improvements are. 

KU Spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson confirmed the existence of the plan, but said there is no timeline for when Oliver, at the corner of Naismith Drive and West 19th Street, will be torn down.

“There is no update since KBOR approved the plan to demolish Oliver,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “Housing continues to work with KU’s Facilities Planning & Development office on that process and timeline.” 

The Regents unanimously approved the plan as part of KU’s Fiscal Year 2022 capital improvement request. The 2022 fiscal year starts July 1, 2021 and runs through June 30, 2022, coinciding with the 2021-22 academic year.

Facilities Planning and Development Director Mark Reiske also confirmed the demolition, and said a project to remove asbestos from the building before demolition began last summer, after the Regents approved the demolition plan.

Oliver closed following the 2018-19 school year for renovations. Two years later, in Feb. 2020, KU confirmed to the Kansan that it had no plans to reopen the residence hall to students.

KU declined to say at the time, however, whether the building would be torn down or remain standing to be used as a storage space.

Oliver’s closing resulted in a loss of 600 total beds to KU Housing, Director of Student Housing Sarah Waters previously told the Kansan. The closure also resulted in the loss of the least-expensive residence hall on campus, with a two-person room in Oliver costing $4,616 per academic year in 2018, per a KU Student Housing infographic from 2018. The second cheapest option, a two-person room at GSP, cost $6,084 per academic year at the time, according to KU Housing. A difference of $1,468 per academic year for the same style of room.

In its last years housing students, Oliver also was overshadowed by new KU residence halls built nearby. This includes Downs Hall, which is connected to Oliver and had rooms that cost from $7,746 for a shared four-person room with two bathrooms to $10,170 for a four-person suite with two bathrooms in 2018. 

Before the opening of Self and Oswald Hall on Daisy Hill in 2015, Oliver was the newest residence hall on campus. According to archived versions of the KU Housing website, Oliver first opened in 1966 and had lobby renovations in 2011. The newest residence hall before Oliver was Ellsworth, which opened in 1963, and was last renovated in 2003. 

The oldest residence hall still standing on campus is Corbin. First built in 1923, Corbin had an addition built in 1951.

The quiet demolition of Oliver is in contrast to the last time KU demolished a residence hall in 2015, when the University hired contractors to implode the 900 bed McCollum Hall on Daisy Hill. 

In the years leading up to McCollum’s demolition, Student Housing had a page on its website dedicated to informing students on the residence hall’s demolition timeline, financing and background research on the decision. KU has not made any public announcement for Oliver’s demolition, aside from the request to the Board of Regents.

The demolition of McCollum was live streamed on KU Housing’s website, and Oliver Hall was used as an in-person viewing area for McCollum’s collapse.

In its final years as a residence hall, Oliver struggled with maintenance and upkeep issues. Students who lived in Oliver the last year it was available as a residence hall foresaw the building’s fate, predicting that it would not be around much longer.

Editor’s note: If you lived at Oliver Hall and want to share your memories of the building, please contact Kansan reporter Wesley Cudney at wcudney@kansan.com or @cudneywesley on Twitter.

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