Faith-based dorms planned near Tempe campus

WESLEY HALL: The First United Methodist Church on University plans to construct a "religious" hall next to the church, on church property. (Photo courtesy of Rev. Rob Rynders)

Plans for a church-affiliated residential hall just off the Tempe campus are awaiting approval after nearly a year of planning.

Expected to be completed in August 2011, Wesley Hall will be open to all students, including incoming freshmen. The hall would be managed by the Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at ASU.

While it is a religious residential hall, students do not have to be a part of the church to live there.

Last September, the Wesley Foundation contacted Newchapter, an organization that finances and builds student housing, about designing and constructing the faith-based residential hall next to Tempe First United Methodist Church.

Though the hall will be built between the College of Design North building and the Global Institute of Sustainability, the property belongs to the church and is considered off-campus.

“It will provide an alternative to a typical college living environment,” Newchapter President Nat Rassi said.

The facility, currently set to begin construction in October and open August 2011, will house 88 students as well as several community assistants.

“It really is a different kind of living environment we’re trying to create,” Rassi said.

The interior of the hall will include suite-style living and about 40 percent of the building is reserved for common areas, both geared toward creating a community in the building, said Ian Clark, director of business development at Newchapter.

This design is similar to many fraternity houses — and that is no coincidence. Newchapter has built several Greek houses on the University of Illinois campus, Clark said.

“We’ve put a lot of personal and emotional investment into this project … we really want it to succeed,” Clark said. Clark is involved with the financing, construction and property management of Wesley Hall.

Another unusual characteristic of Wesley Hall is the religious aspect of the building. There will be faith-based activities on top of the common residential housing activities, said the Rev. Rob Rynders, the United Methodist campus minister at ASU

These projects include church services Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, Bible studies, mission trips, outreach programs and retreats.

Students who don’t want to participate in these events will not be required to attend, but Rynders said he hopes students who live in Wesley Hall will want to be involved in the activities available.

“We look forward to this facility here,” Rynders said. “I don’t think there’s anywhere [else] that also adds the faith-based element, where they can integrate that into the college experience.”

The most difficult part of the project is the small size of the lot where Wesley Hall will be built, as well as having adequate parking space for the building, Clark said.

Newchapter is currently awaiting the city’s approval of its construction plans, which must be assessed by Tempe’s Development Review Commission.

“We’re hoping the city will see this as an important project for the community and for ASU students,” said Dave Summers, senior pastor at Tempe First United Methodist Church.

A city hearing is set for Sept. 14, but Newchapter officials said the date might change.

Reach the reporter at connor.radnovich@asu.edu