Construction on two housing projects almost done

Published: January 29, 2014, 1:14 am ET
Construction
Caroline Van Ummerson /The Collegian
The new Westhampton Residence Hall, which will be completed by next semester.
Collegian Reporter

Throughout the past semester at University of Richmond, the campus community has grown accustomed to the noise next to South Court and the Intramural fields—the frequent buzzing of men in hard hats erecting massive brick structures. In August, the university will unveil Westhampton Hall and the Gateway Village Apartments, putting a year’s worth of work and noise on full display.

That year’s worth of work will add 44 apartment units in the Gateway Village Apartments and 157 beds in Westhampton Hall, with approximate construction costs totaling $12 million for Westhampton Hall and $18 million for Gateway Village Apartments. Steve Bisese, vice president for student affairs, said the new accommodations would reflect the desires expressed by students to improve housing.

“This housing redevelopment plan really does focus more on options for the older students,” Bisese said. “One of the most important things in listening to students was to have apartments where you have single rooms.”

Each unit in the Gateway Village Apartments will feature four single rooms, adding 176 beds and marking the first time students can live in single rooms in an apartment. Outside the apartments, students will have access to several community porches, and a new path will lead from the apartments towards the heart of campus.

“We’re thinking,” said Joan Lachowski, director of housing, “that the students are going to be very excited about the new apartments because they have four singles instead of two doubles, and it gives them some privacy if they need it.”

Since there will be only 44 new apartment units in Gateway Village, the housing office anticipates that it will be very competitive for students to acquire housing there.

Unlike the University Forest Apartments, Gateway Village’s individual units will all be on one floor. A covered walkway will take students from the ground level to their respective floors where they will unlock the unit electronically.

There will be two different styles of apartments. The upper floors will feature a round bay window in the living/dining area, and in those units, the kitchen will be in the center of the living/dining area. In the units without the bay windows, the kitchen will be at the end of the dining room. Both styles of apartments will have two full baths, and will be divided between four buildings with four floors each.

Westhampton Hall will be a coed dormitory made up of single, double and suite rooms. The building was designed by the same architect who developed Lakeview Hall, and will be made up mostly by single/double rooms with a shared bathroom.

The dormitory will be four stories and will have a large lounge space on the first floor and lounges on each other floor. Chuck Rogers, Richmond’s director of design and construction, said the layout and finishes in Westhampton Hall would be very similar to Lakeview.

“I think Lakeview is kind of a step-above in terms of housing units,” Rogers said, “and this will probably feel a step above Lakeview because it’s new.”

Along with the construction of Westhampton Hall and the Gateway Village Apartments, road paths will be altered over the summer to change the main entrance onto campus.

The River Road entrance will become the campus’ main entry point, and the road will wind closer to the new apartments. There will be a pull-off point on the road close to the entrance, where prospective students and parents can study a large campus map and look across campus to see the bell tower.

The new housing work may have taken only one year, but when the projects are finished in August they will represent another goal reached on a construction plan created almost seven years ago. In November 2007, university officials from student affairs, housing and facilities began developing a long-term renovation and construction plan. Since 2007, the university has been gradually making progress on that plan, starting with the construction of Lakeview and Freeman halls.

After a five-year hiatus, the university is plunging back into that redevelopment plan with Gateway Village and Westhampton Hall. Once students move into these new units, the redevelopment plan will continue with the renovation of Jeter and Thomas halls.

Jeter and Thomas will be closed for the 2015 academic year, but Westhampton Hall will substitute for the 63 singles that will be lost during renovation. Much of the redevelopment plan has been carried out in this fashion—calculating incoming class sizes and balancing rooms lost with rooms to be added. The 200, 900, 1500, 1600 and 1700 UFA blocks will be demolished this summer, and the remaining apartments will all be renovated for the fall.

“The new Gateway Village Apartments are wonderful, but the old UFA that’s been renovated is also very nice,” Lachowski said. “It just depends on whether you want a single or a double, or whether you’d like to have an upstairs or a downstairs.”

Incorporating “public spaces” into these new residences is something Bisese was glad the plan was able to accomplish, he said. Areas like the classroom in Lakeview and lounges in dormitories are costly to include in a building design, because they are not revenue-generating spaces. Lachowski said seeing different aspects of the redevelopment plan come to fruition makes her proud, because she’s seen the condition of student housing improve over the years.

“I know what [housing] used to be like,” Lachowski said, ”and to see new housing being developed is exciting for me because I feel like we’re getting rid of some of the problems in the past. We’re making every effort possible to make something that will have people say: Now the university has something I’d really like to live in.”

Contact reporter Clay Helms at clay.helms@richmond.edu

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