TEMPLE TERRACE — Lauren Tharp and Caitlyn Stockton feel at home in their new residence suite at Florida College.
The Indiana natives have decorated their private bedrooms and the common area they share with two other young women.
“We were thinking about moving off campus. Then we heard they were opening College Hall,” Stockton said, as Tharp nodded nearby.
“We said, ‘Hey, let’s give it a shot,’” Tharp said.
Stockton and Tharp were among a group of 29 women to move into the newly-renovated residence hall at the start of the academic year in August. The building was officially dedicated last week.
The opening of College Hall marks the latest in a string of student housing projects needed to accommodate Florida College’s increasing student demands. The liberal arts college serves more than 520 students.
It also is the first time women have lived in the residence hall located near the entrance to campus at North Glen Arven Avenue and Bullard Parkway.
Formerly known as C Dorm, a men’s residence hall for more than 40 years, College Hall now caters to junior and senior female students.
It is part of a $2.5 million investment Florida College is making to modernize long-standing buildings and transform them to feature Mediterranean Revival exteriors, which complement the city’s historic architectural style.
The Akin Building, where math and science courses are taught, is undergoing a $1.5 million structural and high-tech makeover.
The $1 million College Hall project features 32 private bedrooms spread among eight suites. The building also has a full-service kitchen, washers and dryers, and centralized space to study and entertain. A ninth suite was converted to an apartment for the residence hall advisor.
The seven-month residence hall renovation and student move-in culminated Sept. 20 with a dedication ceremony attended by several hundred people.
The event called Florida College Revival Day 2013 coincided with the college’s board of directors’ annual fall meeting and leadership dinner.
“It went from the Motel 6 to the Taj Mahal,” said Florida College board member Charlie Nowlin. “It fits in perfectly with what the city is trying to do with revitalization.”
Nowlin’s wife, Janice, and their three children all attended Florida College. Nowlin is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College.
Mayor Frank Chillura presented a proclamation to Florida College officials and thank them for incorporating the Mediterranean architectural style in their building improvement projects.
Former Temple Terrace City Councilman Bill Hammontree, 87, who oversaw the construction of C Dorm in 2 1/2 months in the summer of 1964, was nostalgic about the original project but pleased to see the updated work.
Florida College President H.E. “Buddy” Payne credited Larry and Joan Coffey of Louisville, Ky., with making the financial contribution that made the residence hall renovation project possible.
“We were very thankful that we could be a part of it,” said Joan Coffey, a 1970 Florida College graduate.
The college began investing in a building improvement program in 2000 to accommodate increasing student demands.
Florida College opened two new residence halls on campus about six years ago. Boswell with five floors — the tallest building in Temple Terrace — houses about 330 men. Terrace Hall is a 96-bed residence hall for women next door.
Payne sees the roughly 12,000-square-foot, three-story College Hall as a symbol of what is to come at Florida College.
It demonstrates the college’s commitment to provide quality student housing, moving forward, and being an economic engine in the city, he said.
Stockton and Tharp said they were happy to have a comfortable place to live, with ample space to display their personal belongings.
They predict College Hall will be their home until they graduate.