Nearly 60 years old, Ashton Hall will close down this fall for renovation

The first-year hall to close indefinitely for unspecific repairs

Antonio Nevarez, Staff Writer

Ashton Hall in the 1960s. (Courtesy of the SPU Library)

Since its grand opening in 1965, Ashton Hall has been a temporary home for Seattle Pacific University’s incoming students. Capable of housing 400 people, Ashton Hall is SPU’s largest residence hall. But due to its age and need for renovation, Ashton is set to be closed indefinitely starting this fall. 

The idea of closing Ashton Hall for renovations has been around since at least 2017. The final decision to close the residence hall for the 2023-24 school year was made near the beginning of March 2023. This decision comes after many discussions between university leadership, including those involved with residence life, finance and enrollment.

Chuck Strawn, the dean of students for community life, says that while enrollment rates are not the sole reason for Ashton Hall’s indefinite closure, they helped play a part when it came time to plan how their largest residence hall would receive updates. 

“The challenge with Ashton has always been because it’s so big, you could never take it completely offline. And you don’t want to be living in a residence hall while they’re doing construction on it,” Strawn said. “I was the resident life staff in Marston when they were building the elevator during the year. It’s pretty invasive,” Strawn added. 

Since SPU is expecting fewer incoming first-year students this fall, they now have the opportunity to place new students in other residence halls. 

“If we have a smaller number of first-year students, we can take a first-year area offline,” Strawn said. “We realized that this might be a space where we could kind of reconfigure some of our housing arrangements in order to take Ashton offline.”

In recent years, Ashton Hall and Arnett Hall have been the designated buildings to house first-year students. With Ashton’s closure, the next wave of first-year students will be in Arnett Hall and Hill Hall, which is typically meant for second-year students.

“I’m excited to see what will happen next year with Arnett and Hill … and then having our second-year students in Emerson [and] maybe some overflow into our campus houses or apartments,” Strawn shared.

Because the decision to close Ashton Hall was made fairly recently, it is unclear what kind of changes will be made to the building. However, current Ashton Hall residents have already voiced some of the changes they are hoping to see.

Gail McMillan is a first-year psychology major living in Ashton Hall. If the building is going to receive updates, McMillian is hoping to have the third-floor heaters get fixed for future residents. 

“It’s constantly pumping, and I can’t get to sleep if I’m too warm,” McMillan said. “During the dead of January, I kept the window open, and no one knew how to turn it off.”

Ashton Hall is known for its communal bathrooms. While some residents do not mind sharing a bathroom, they would like to see changes to some of the necessities within the bathrooms, particularly the water systems. This is the case for first-year music therapy major, Lizzy Butler. 

“There’s just always issues with [the water systems]. Some bathrooms flood, and others have no water pressure,” Butler said. “And on [the] fifth floor, the drinking fountain hasn’t worked all year.”

While the renovation plans are not yet finalized, Strawn believes that the cost for renovation will not come out of students’ tuition. 

“There are so many different spaces that we use for revenue. In the past, we have had a sale of a property, and we’ll take all those dollars and put them back into the upkeep in the current infrastructure,” Strawn explained. 

While Ashton is set to be closed for the entirety of the 2023-24 school year, it is unclear whether or not the residence hall will reopen for the following year.