Neptune East gets remodel

By Taher Zeitoun

DeKALB — Neptune East is undergoing a makeover, including the addition of air conditioning units to every room. The project is being financed by $5.4 million of the Build America Bonds as a part of the larger Holmes Student Center Capital Project. 

The Build America Bonds were issued to state agencies like NIU as a part of the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act after the great recession, according to the municipal bonds website.

Dan Pedersen, senior director of Housing and Residential Services, said the last phase of the Neptune project started after spring break and consists of running wiring to support air conditioning units inserted through the wall. Electric conduits and outlets will be added to support the air conditioners.

He said in the summer, the construction crews will start cutting through the brick walls to insert the air conditioning units in all student rooms in the east wing. 

Pedersen said the work will be completed by the start of next fall and the only work completed so far was the removal of flooring and built in furniture as well as drilling in the walls for the air conditioning units.

Pedersen said the only difference between the Neptune West and Neptune East remodel is the addition of air conditioning units. Neptune West did not receive new air conditioning units in its refresh last summer.

“We spoke to students back in 2017 about what they liked about the refresh in Neptune West and made the decision to perform a specific set of items which allowed us to get air conditioning done as well,” Pedersen said.

Michael Stang, assistant vice president of student affairs, said the work in Neptune East started in December and consists of replacing furniture and carpeting in addition to the air conditioning. 

Stang said the refresh was not initially part of the Holmes Student Center project. He said after there were leftover funds from the $20 million Holmes Student Center project, the Board of Trustees decided in March 2017 to invest the remaining $5.4 million into Neptune.

“One goal of the Holmes Student Center Capital project was to influence the experience of more students,” Stang said. “[That] being said, it still doesn’t make sense to leave Neptune in the same condition it was in 40 to 50 years ago.”

Pedersen said the $5.4 million covered other Neptune projects such as the dining hall remodel, which included the addition of soda machines, a gluten-free station, countertops and hardware flooring.

Pedersen said the remodeling of Neptune East will be the final piece of the Refresh project.

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The bathrooms on each floor will be receiving a remodel, he said. There will be a single-user restroom added to every floor on the south wing of Neptune East.

Pedersen said the bathrooms are being added to offer more privacy and to provide all gender-neutral bathroom and shower compartments. He said this work is similar to all of the bathroom remodels around campus and in the Neptune Residential Halls.

“It’s similar to a restroom in your house; you walk in, you close the door, and you’re able to lock it and are able to use the sink, toilet or shower until you are done,” Pedersen said.

Cass Bermijo, junior time arts major who lives in Neptune North, said they like the idea of the gender-neutral bathrooms and thinks it will be a nice option for students.

“I’m gender fluid, so not having to worry about which bathroom to go into is nice,” Bermijo said. “Neptune North has some, and it’s a nice option to have.”

In addition to double rooms, single room options will be made available, consisting of one set of furniture, according to the NIU housing Facebook page.

Senior psychology major Michael Assefa said he is excited to hear there are changes being made around campus.

Assefa said while he doesn’t live in the dorms this year, he sees the benefit of providing a renewed living space to students.

“The environment I live in greatly affects the motivation I put into my school work,” Assefa said. “Adding air conditioning provides a basic necessity and also can make students feel like they are back home, ultimately leading to a healthier state of mind.”

The scheduled reopening is set for Fall 2019, and Pedersen said he is excited to see the students reactions to the new changes.

Pedersen said there are 124 more returning residents applying to live in the dorms this year than last year.

“I haven’t asked students if the Refresh is the reason they are reapplying, but I think it is a strong indication [that] something is going on out there [that] is making Neptune attractive to our returning students,” Pedersen said.