Officials elaborate on upcoming campus plans

Elizabeth Heurich

Within the next five years, the University plans to make some significant changes to the campus by adding a series of new interconnected residence halls, a parking garage and a Performing Arts Center. The project is still in the initial planning stages, but, as of right now, the parking garage is planned to be completed by May 2014 and the residence halls by August 2016. The Performing Arts Center currently does not have an expected completion date because the project is fundraising-dependent. The plan falls under the University’s Strategic Plan and has been titled the “Design Concept for Lancaster Avenue.” The proposed plan, which is estimated to cost between $200-250 million, will be located in the Main Lot off Lancaster Ave. The funds for the project would come from a combination of the University’s resources, along with borrowing and fundraising, according to Chris Kovolski, assistant to the president for Internal and External Affairs. “It is important to note that this project hasn’t been approved,” Kovolski said, “These are merely our ideas for what we would like to accomplish. We’ve only just begun the conversation with the township and the community.” According to the University’s website, the planned project would offer on-campus housing to 85 percent of undergraduate students, an increase of nearly 15 percent. Along with residence halls, there will be a convenience store, a new University bookstore and a Villanova bistro. The latter will be designed to emulate a restaurant setting. Also, the parking garage, along with parking areas around the new residence halls, would offer a total of around 2,100 parking spots, an increase of about 400 spots from the Main Lot’s current capacity. There are many benefits to the proposed project plan. The residence halls could help to ebb student traffic flow to and from campus. The senior housing could also improve relations with the surrounding communities, which at time is strained by off-campus housing. Providing four-year housing would also help the University to compete with other colleges and universities. There would be environmental benefits as well. A more improved storm water management system would be one of the goals of the potential construction. Also, all the new buildings would have to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified. One major concern from the surrounding communities is that the retail aspect of the proposed construction will detract from local businesses, but this is not the case, according to Kovolski. “We’re confident that our students will still seek to support the off-campus retailers,” Kovolski said. Administration presented to the Board of Commissioners on Feb. 13. It provided an opportunity for both positive feedback and constructive criticism. The review and approval process was scheduled to occur this February, according to the University website. According to Kovolski, this has not yet begun. “We’re not in any hurry to force this through,” Kovolski said, “We want to make sure we get it right. We have one opportunity to develop our main parking lots, and we want to make sure that the project works for everybody.” Although nothing is official quite yet, the parking garage and residence halls have a more concrete timeline than the Performing Arts Center. The Performing Arts Center is proposed to cost $40-50 million, and the cost will be completely covered by donations. Although this seems like quite a feat, it has been done before. The Davis Center for Athletics and Fitness was completely built off of donations from alumni and friends of the University. The Davis Center even exceeded fundraising goals, which offers a positive outlook for the future of the Performing Arts Center. Many of the details about logistics and design have yet to be finalized. Because the University is in the planning stages, several aspects are flexible to adjustments. For example, the issue of losing parking spots during the construction of the parking garage still lacks a solution. “Once we get some sense of approval or satisfaction then we can move more forward with logistics,” Kovolski said.