CWU News

CWU Takes First Step Toward Construction of New Residence Hall

Demolition of two aging campus buildings on the Central Washington University campus is set to begin in the next two weeks in order to clear the way for construction of a new $45 million residence hall and dining facility.

Peterson Hall and the former Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute (CHCI) building are being demolished to make way for a 402-bed residence hall with parking. The new 105,000 square-foot residence hall, to open in fall 2019, will help the university meet the unprecedented growth in recent years of first-year students.

Security fences were erected around both buildings several weeks ago.

The residence hall, which will primarily house first-year students, is the first CWU project to use a progressive design-build delivery method to ensure the project is completed within budget and in the timeliest fashion.

Once completed, the hall will consist of double rooms, double rooms with bathrooms and a limited number of single rooms. Additionally, it will feature study rooms, lounges, laundry rooms on each floor, and a communal kitchen on the first floor attached to the main hall lounge.

It will also include a dining facility with a branded dining concept.

Joanne Hillemann, CWU project manager, said hazardous waste abatement in the CHCI building began Monday with demolition scheduled to start next week.  She said the work could take several weeks to complete. Demolition of Peterson Hall is expected to begin a few weeks later.

Two-story Peterson Hall, which opened in 1960 as the Allan Apartments, lacked an elevator and fire sprinklers as well as an air-conditioning and central heating system, and had not been renovated since the early 1980s.

Acquired by the university in 1970, Peterson Hall housed CWU’s U.S. Airforce and Army Reserve Officer Training Corp programs for many decades. It was named to honor Eldon Peterson, a CWU alum who was killed in action in 1964.

The CHCI building was originally built to house chimpanzees involved in research that taught them to communicate with humans and each other using American Sign Language. Following the natural deaths of several of the chimpanzees, the two remaining primates were moved to a new home in Canada in 2013 and the facility was closed.

In January, construction crews began dismantling the vacant structure, saving portions of the primate enclosure, which were donated to the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Cle Elum. The sanctuary and CWU have long had a close relationship, with students in the school’s primate program gaining hands-on experience at the sanctuary.

According to a report prepared for the CWU Board of Trustees by the firm of Schreiber Starling & Lane Architects, the CHCI building suffers from mold growth and a design that limits its usefulness for other purposes. The report said it would cost an estimated $7 million to reconfigure and rehabilitate the CHCI building for other uses.

Media contact: Richard Moreno, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-2714,