For the first time in almost 15 years, the UMass Dartmouth community will watch the campus transform during the construction of a new first-year student residence and dining complex that will enhance the student living and learning experience. The $134-million complex will open in fall 2020.
The 267,500-square-foot residence halls for first-year students will occupy two buildings in the complex with a total of 1,210 beds. Besides the actual living areas, the facilities will include general academic classrooms, multimedia and study lounges, a demonstration kitchen, and recreation spaces. The buildings will also offer technology-equipped maker spaces where students will be able to work on group projects, soundproof music practice spaces, and two computer learning commons. The new housing will replace four residence halls—Elmwood, Maple Ridge, Chestnut, and Roberts—that opened between 1972 and 1976.
“This complex builds a community for first-year students,” said Lucinda Poudrier-Aaronson, associate dean of students/director of University Housing and Dining. “Its design creates opportunities to draw students out into
common spaces for dining, socializing, and academic engagement.”
A 38,000-square-foot student dining commons within the complex will feature a marketplace-style design with expanded food options. Lounging and study areas located on the second floor of the dining commons create a home-like atmosphere where first-year students develop their UMassD connections.
“When I think about what makes our personal homes feel like ‘home,’ gathering around food and friends come to mind,” Poudrier-Aaronson said. “Bringing all these features together in this complex helps our first-year students come to know UMassD as their home.”
Two faculty-in-residence apartments will foster mentoring and advising, a first for UMassD residence halls. This arrangement allows connections to be built between faculty and students as they engage outside of the classroom in the dining or common spaces. Faculty-in-residence may develop programming for students in the residence halls or hold office hours to make academic support more accessible for students.
Located within Ring Road, the complex brings student life closer to the center of campus and creates an energy that the entire UMassD community will feel.
“The construction of this residence complex is a visible sign of what’s to come and sets the tone for the future of UMassD,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Shannon Finning, Ph.D. “Our students deserve to have spaces that afford them the kind of learning that we know already happens on campus.”
“When we drive around Ring Road and see cranes and building equipment, this tells us that UMassD is not just surviving—we’re thriving,” Finning said.
“Our students and our region will benefit from these investments in quality living and learning facilities that will prepare them to succeed in a rapidly changing, highly competitive global economy,” Chancellor Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D. said. “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.”
As competition for prospective students increases, providing high-quality learning environments is essential to sustaining enrollment growth and retention. This year, UMassD saw a 7.7 percent increase in enrollment among first-year students.
“This complex is an investment in UMassD’s future and in the future of our students,” said Bob Andrea, associate vice chancellor for Enrollment Management. “The features of the facility appeal to incoming students and will create the type of living and learning community that positions them for success at UMassD.”
Ground broke on construction in November 2018. Currently, footing walls and steel frames are being erected, and the elevator shaft of the north pod rises above the construction area. The exterior building structures are expected to be up by late fall, so interior work can begin.
Construction Project Manager Peter Geldemacher said that the complex will deliver a new look and vibrancy to campus. “This will be the largest building on campus in square footage. It will be quite distinct, especially with the dining hall’s glass exterior, and will add color to our landscape.”
The residence halls are built through a public-private partnership between the university and Greystar, one of the largest and most experienced collegiate housing developers and managers in the country. The partnership allows the building of the new housing without any state taxpayer funds and will not add to the debt burden for the university. The project construction is led by Suffolk, which has built nine residential facilities on campus, including the 800-bed Pine Dale and Oak Glen halls, which opened in 2003, and the 1,200-bed Woodland apartment complex, which opened in 2005. The project is being financed via the UMass Building Authority and designed by DiMella Shaffer.
This project is part of the first phase of Chancellor Johnson’s plan to focus on capital investment. The last state-funded building project on campus was the Claire T. Carney Library renovation in 1980. Future initiatives include renovation and modernization of academic buildings, the campus center, road infrastructure, and athletic facilities.
For a live look at the construction and a time-lapse video, see footage from the construction webcam here.