The University will kick off its much- anticipated four-year plan for development and renovation along Lancaster Ave this fall. The project, titled the “The Design Concept for Lancaster Avenue,” has been in talks for over three years now, and is officially on track to finish in Fall of 2019.
The main construction zone covers the area currently occupied by the main parking lots: East Main Lot (also known as “Pike Lot”) and West Main Lot. The project will cover 14 acres of land, and will be entirely redeveloped to improve student life and enhance campus culture.
Central among the developments in this area will be 400,000 square ft. multi-purpose apartment complexes. The complexes will look like two large buildings, but together will hold six residence halls with accommodations for up to 1,135 students. The residence halls will feature both suite-style living space with double or single rooms, and some single dorm accommodations.
A new branch of the retail store in Kennedy Bookstore will also open up within these buildings. The retail store will mainly function to support students living in this new area, but University officials hope that, like all of the central additions, the store will also capture the attention of visitors and prospective students.
The complex will also feature a unique University-operated bistro, which will deviate from the classic self-serve, dining hall settings on campus and provide the community with a unique “dining-out” option. This new on-campus “restaurant” will allow students to sit down and be served by a traditional wait staff.
The complexes will also feature a mailroom, two new fitness centers and a “genius bar.” Unlike its Apple Store counterpart, the University Genius Bar will serve as a high- tech collaborative environment where students and organizations may come together to make presentations and work on projects with cutting-edge technology (yet to be specified).
The first fitness center will primarily utilized for group fitness activity, and the second will offer traditional machinery, an open aerobic area, and possibly even a cross fit center. While this second fitness center will serve mainly as a Davis Center alternative, the University hopes to install equipment to accommodate unique group fitness classes, like spin and yoga, in the second. Students like Allie Carroll (’17) are particularly intrigued by this installment and hope that the classes offered will be comparable to Main Line alternatives. “I go to ‘Flywheel’ several times each week, but if I were offered an on-campus alternative as an underclassman, I would be there all the time,” Carroll remarked.
Assistant Vice President for Government Relations and External Affairs Chris Kovolski believes that these new housing options in particular will make the University especially competitive. “We see many of our peer institutions being able to provide these kinds of residential options to students, and so we know to remain competitive, Villanova needs to be able to offer the same kinds of opportunities. We think that having more living opportunities will make us more attractive to prospective families and help to improve the already tremendous sense of community we have on campus.”
University officials estimate that 85 percent of undergraduate students will be housed on campus by the end of the project.
The University plans to restrict these new housing options to upperclassmen, ideally seniors who are currently not guaranteed on-campus housing. Additionally, Residence Life officials, like the Area Coordinator, will be offered full-time housing within the complexes. Still, project coordinators hope that the developments will not only enhance numerous aspects of University culture and campus life, but will also be beneficial to the greater local community.
Concerns from neighbors and traffic congestion were also major factors in providing additional on-campus housing for upperclassmen, Kovolski explains. “There certainly are instances where there is tension between neighbors and students—you find that in any college town. So I think what we saw an opportunity here to provide more on campus housing, which we know prospective families want, but also address some of the concerns we hear from our neighbors and surrounding townships about finding more ways to bring students on campus.”
Senior Cassie Dunn (’16) is particularly impressed by this effort. “I currently live off campus, and I would love to be closer, but I think it’s really amazing that future students will get to feel connected to Villanova throughout their entire college career,” she said.
Additionally, the project addresses an initiative to alleviate traffic congestion on Lancaster Avenue and will feature an expansion of the current parking garage next to the Saint Augustine Center and additional surface parking along Lancaster Avenue.
Another new installment, which may help to alleviate some traffic issues (particularly in high traffic areas like the intersection of Ithan and Lancaster), is a pedestrian footbridge which will stretch across Lancaster Avenue and connect the newly developed area with main campus. Pedestrians will therefore be walking above the traffic on Lancaster on a bridge that lets off in front of the University’s iconic St. Thomas of Villanova Church. Project developers are particularly proud of this installment, which they say will contribute to the visual attractiveness of campus and complement the architectural style of the entire campus.
Though the project is technically “parking neutral” (it neither adds nor removes parking spaces from campus), two new parking levels will be added to the garage next to SAC, providing more parking to support those who work on main campus full-time. The additional surface parking area, which will be situated on Lancaster Avenue near Moriarty, Griffin and Geraghty Halls, will accommodate roughly 240 cars and is strategically located closer to western portion of Main Campus, where 70 percent of University classrooms are located.
Aesthetically, all of these installments will complement the collegiate Gothic style of the rest of campus, and project developers say that the community will begin noticing significant changes shortly. “Phase One” of the project, renovating the SAC parking garage and preparing to install new surface parking, has already begun. Though construction projects have not interrupted student life on any major scale thus far, project developers say that University community should be prepared for certain interruptions in parking in the coming months. Kovolski explains that “with a project of this size and scope, unfortunately there will always be some impact.” Nonetheless, developers hope to keep interference to a minumum.
In the end, the changes and interruptions to regular student life are all in name of enriching our community, and although the changes will be vast, the project is designed to transform the campus into an increasingly hospitable, functional and beautiful place. Senior Project Manager Marilou Smith assures that come 2020, “when you approach [campus], you will know you’re at Villanova University.”