VCU will build two more dorms and retail space
Virginia Commonwealth is expanding again. It plans to begin work on a $36.4 million project this spring to build two residence halls and 3,000 square feet of retail space.
The two five-story residence halls will offer 426 beds, increasing on-campus housing at VCU and drawing new retailers to the Broad and Grace Street corridors. The university just opened a new residence hall at Grace and Shafer streets this semester, and another new dorm opened across the street last year.
“With new buildings and housing coming online, that sort of drives retail,” said Brian J. Ohlinger, VCU’s associate vice president for facilities management. “That’s occurring on Grace and Broad Street. Over the last 15 months, there are 16 new businesses there that have opened or are in the processing of developing plans to open. That wouldn’t happen without creating that street presence and activity zones that housing provides.”
Many of the new businesses are engaged in food service, he added. Noodles & Co. opened a restaurant this spring on Grace Street. “We will be opening a technology store in the fall with Dell and other products. A Panda Express is coming that will open next summer. The lease has been signed for that. That’s just some of them,” Ohlinger said, in reference to the new businesses.
As part of the new project, the 88,000-square-foot residence hall that will be built on what is now a surface parking lot at Broad and Ryland Streets — with the building facing Broad — will have the new retail space. No leases have been signed for that space yet, said Ohlinger.
The other 102,000-square-foot dorm will be located at Grace and Harrison Streets, with the building to face Grace.
VCU’s Board of Visitors has approved up to $41 million in bonds to finance the design-build project. Ohlinger said the university has signed a contract with Newport News-based W. M. Jordan Co. to serve as general contractor. Jordan will team with architecture firm Clark Nexson, which has offices in Norfolk and Richmond.
The new dorms “will give us just over 6,000 beds,” Ohlinger said, with the project part of a push for more residential housing in the university’s master plan. “The total that we will eventually grow to is 7,000 beds.”
Ohlinger said VCU did a student housing demand study last fall, which showed demand for about 3,000 more beds on or around the campus. “The 400 beds is well within what the demand study showed. We have students who want to be on campus for the security, convenience and the amount of amenities that we offer.”