DSU set to add contemporary housing options for students

The planned new residence hall at Delaware State University — whch will be built adjacent to historic Loockerman Hall, the birthplace of the university — will house as many as 600 students. (Delaware State News/Submitted rendering)

DOVER — Delaware State University is about to grow substantially in terms of on-campus housing as well as bring a new contemporary look to its residential portfolio.

The university took one of its first steps toward the construction of a sparkling new 190,000-square-foot residence hall as officials for the project attended a city of Dover Development Advisory Committee applicant meeting in the City Hall conference room on Wednesday morning.

The committee didn’t seem to have any major issues with DSU’s Site Master Plan, which will be undertaken in four phases: 1 — Relocation of utilities; 2 — Construction of residence hall (600 beds) and demolition of Laws Hall; and 3 — demolition of Tubman Hall.

Next, the master plan for the new residence hall at DSU will be considered by the city’s Planning Commission at its meeting on Nov. 20 before construction can proceed forward.

“We’re very excited about this project,” said J.D. Bartlett, A.V.P. for Capital Planning & Environmental Sustainability for Delaware State University. “We’re phasing it in so that we can kind of reduce the impact to the campus, but still provide for what we need to do.”

Mr. Bartlett said the university expects construction to begin on the residential hall project soon.

“Utility work is going to start in early 2018 and, ultimately, the construction will be completed by fall of 2019,” he said.

Once completed, the five-story residence hall will house up to 600 students at maximum capacity. Currently, only 2,300 or the university’s 4,600 students reside on campus.

The new residence hall will be constructed adjacent to historic Loockerman Hall — the birthplace of the university — and will include a new dining facility and a ground floor innovation center that will create a critical connection between the university’s academic programs and student affairs.

“The students are excited to see the changes that are coming and I think that’s a big thing for them,” Mr. Bartlett said. “Plus, the fact that we’re focused on providing another option for housing is an exciting option for them as well.”

Dr. Wilma Mishoe, who will take over as Delaware State University’s first female interim president on Jan. 25, 2018, said the addition of modern housing will be a big win for the school’s students.

“Our No. 1 priority at DSU is student success and we believe that encompasses every aspect of student life including rigorous academic offerings, exceptional teaching, learning and service opportunities, and a residential community that is inviting and inclusive,” Dr. Mishoe said.

“This new effort helps us match the demand we have felt from our students with the goals we have outlined for their success.”

DSU initiated a project in May 2016 to identify its housing needs and to meet increased demand, while also having minimal financial impact to the students and the university.

School officials came up with the idea of a Public/Private Partnership contract, in which a private developer will design, build, operate and maintain the facility through a long-term ground lease on the DSU campus.

Following the lease term, Delaware State University will assume full ownership of the facility, which the school expects will save millions of dollars in construction and operating costs.

DSU President Harry L. Williams said such a financing arrangement is not unusual in higher education.

“Universities like ours don’t always have the leverage or in-house expertise to effectively negotiate the terms; DSU is fortunate to have both,” Dr. Williams said. “We also have a board that is willing to be innovative in growing the campus without transferring the cost of that growth to our students.”

The project, DSU said, will also eliminate more than $15 million in deferred maintenance, a significant cost in maintaining Tubman and Laws halls, two of the oldest residential facilities on campus to be demolished at the conclusion of the new residence hall construction.

Tameka Shockley, a senior at Delaware State University, said she is excited about the new residence hall, even though she won’t be around campus any more to enjoy it by the time it’s completed.

“I think this is an incredible addition to our already gorgeous campus and a great way to combine the latest technology with our academic programming, easy access living arrangements and residential activities that make better students and better citizens,” Ms. Shockley said.

“I am definitely excited for my younger classmates and future Hornets that we will have the opportunity to live in such a technology-rich environment.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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