UMass Trustees Approve $188 Million Capital Improvements to UMass Dartmouth Student Housing and Dining, and Science and Engineering Building

Package includes $133.9 million public-private partnership to replace outdated residence halls and right-size dining facilities, and $54.4 million to renovate university’s largest academic building

Rendering of new dorms

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees today approved a $133.9 million UMass Dartmouth plan to replace outdated first-year student residence halls and right-size student dining facilities. The Board also gave initial approval to a $54.4 million renovation of the university’s science and engineering building.

These projects will be the first phase of Chancellor Robert E. Johnson’s plan to focus capital investment on the 710-acre UMass Dartmouth main campus, which has seen just one major state-funded building project – the Claire T. Carney Library renovation – since 1980. Future initiatives include renovation and modernization of academic buildings, the campus center, road infrastructure and athletic facilities.

“Our students deserve these investments,” said Chancellor Johnson, who just completed his first year leading the 8,500-student Tier 1 national research university on the South Coast of Massachusetts. “High quality living and learning facilities are critical to preparing our students to succeed in a highly competitive global economy. When combined with our first-rate faculty, these facilities will guarantee our students the private college educational experience and public university value they so deserve.”

Chancellor Johnson thanked the Baker-Polito administration and the South Coast legislative delegation, UMass President Meehan and the Board of Trustees. “They believe in our students, faculty and staff,” he said. “They recognize that this investment in learning and research is a smart investment in our region and Commonwealth.”

The $107.8 million, 267,500 square foot housing development responds to student demand for modern residential facilities that promote student engagement, a key factor in retaining students beyond their first year. The new housing will feature general academic classrooms, a mixture of multimedia and study lounges throughout the facility, wireless internet, two large student lounges with demonstration kitchens, multimedia equipment, and recreation space. The north portion will have “maker spaces” to encourage collaborative work, while the south section will have music practice rooms and two computer learning commons. 

The new housing will serve 1,210 first-year students, replacing four residence halls that opened in 1976.  Two faculty-in-residence apartments will foster mentoring and advising. The housing will be co-located with a $26.1 million, 38,000 square foot student dining commons with a capacity of 800. The current main dining hall was built in 1977 for a residential student population of 1,600 but now serves 3,200 students.

The 177,000 square foot science and engineering building opened in 1969. The $54 million project will focus on the building systems, including roofs, windows, heating and ventilation and be financed by a combination of state and university funds. Governor Baker announced $25 million in state funds for the project earlier this week. The money was authorized by the Legislature earlier this year as part of a $950 million higher education construction initiative. The university is pursuing additional state, federal, and philanthropic funds to equip classrooms and laboratories in the facility.

These projects will create hundreds of construction jobs over the next two years. A November groundbreaking for the housing and dining facilities is tentatively scheduled with the grand opening planned for Fall, 2020.

“The regional economic impact of these initiatives will be significant,” Chancellor Johnson said. “Besides the construction jobs created, these facilities and those that follow will strengthen our position as a Tier 1 national research university that retains, develops, and attracts talent to drive the regional economy.”

The University of Massachusetts Building Authority (UMBA) will assist UMass Dartmouth with construction management and financing of the project. “We are proud to be part of this innovative public-private partnership that will provide UMass Dartmouth students with the world-class facilities that they deserve,” said UMBA Executive Director Patricia A. Filippone. “UMass Dartmouth’s prudent management of these significant improvements will position the campus for years of continued success.”

The housing portion of the project will be built under a public-private partnership between UMass Dartmouth and EdR, one of the largest and most experienced collegiate housing developers and managers in the country. The partnership will allow the building of new housing without any state taxpayer funds and does not add to the debt burden for the university. Instead, EdR will finance the project through the student rent similar to the housing fees being paid for current UMass Dartmouth housing.  The EdR team includes the design firm of Dimella Shaffer Architects and construction management firm of Suffolk Construction.

“The entire EdR team is very excited to be partnering with UMBA and UMass Dartmouth to develop, finance and maintain this exciting student life community delivering a transformational first year residence hall and dining commons in support of Dr. Johnson’s strategic plan,” Julie Skolnicki, Senior Vice President of University Partnerships at EdR, said.  “Partnering with universities to support their student success initiatives and financial goals is core to our mission and we look forward to delivering this project for UMass Dartmouth in 2020.”

EdR’s recent projects include housing developments at the University of Kentucky and the University of California-Berkley.

Maintenance and operations of the new residence halls will be managed by EdR while the university will continue to manage all student life activity. In addition, the university has committed to its labor unions that there will be no layoffs resulting from this public-private partnership.

These projects, once completed will address nearly 20 percent – or $107 million – of the university’s current deferred maintenance backlog. The housing project alone will address 35 percent – or $75 million – of the university’s auxiliary services (housing and dining) deferred maintenance backlog.


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