In an effort to offer different kinds of accommodations for its students, the University of Rhode Island plans to build a $94 million apartment-style residence hall on the current Dairy Barn parking lot.
The White Horn Brook Apartment Complex will provide about 500 new beds. Named after the brook that carries runoff across campus, the apartments will be four bedrooms each, and will include a kitchen and common area. Construction is set to start in the summer of 2017 and should take about two years. The residence hall construction will cause a deficiency of about 280 resident parking spaces.
At 185,000 square feet, its scale is near that of the Beaupre Chemistry Building, and will cost nearly $94 million by its completion.
“We’re very excited about the new residence halls,” Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Director of Housing and Residential Life John Sears said. He added that the campus does not have a lot of four-bedroom style living arrangements, and hopes this provides something unique to students.
The complex is geared towards juniors and seniors, something in demand across campus, according to Sears. There are currently 6,000 students living on campus, and about 300-500 students on waitlists who would like to live on campus.
“We conducted a study a number of years ago and found that there was a market for this kind of housing on campus,” Sears said. “The University is interested in retaining as many students on campus as possible. We think it provides a great experience for students.”
Director of Capital Projects Paul De Pace agrees. He added that living on campus is convenient, and provides great opportunities for students to immerse themselves in the college lifestyle.
Bianca Cipola, a sophomore, said that most upperclassmen she knows would prefer to live off campus as opposed to staying on campus. She expressed frustration over the limited parking for residents in the Dairy Barn lot as it stands right now.
“By the time upperclassmen get around to it they’re like, ‘I don’t want to pay the extra money [for housing] anymore and they find somewhere else to go,” Cipola said. “I don’t necessarily know that we need it.” She added that as an upperclassman student, she may consider staying on campus to cut out the time it takes to commute back and forth to campus.
While the project is still in the schematic design process, De Pace said he hopes the new residence hall will feature more common areas and a classroom, like many of the freshmen dorms currently have. The building design will be in a linear shape, De Pace said, and will also serve as a shelter in case of emergencies.
HRL is looking into “partnering with dining services and other campus constituents to create a developmental educational aspect in the building,” Sears said. “We’re exploring ideas like a test kitchen in a facility where students can learn nutrition and kitchen safety [and] recipes, as part of the educational component.”
Both De Pace and Sears are aware of the parking space deficiency the construction will cause, but both agree that the university is working on solutions to address the problem.
“We have a huge parking lot here…that has spaces and is pretty close to these apartments,” De Pace said in reference to the Plains Road lot which is currently commuter parking. “We will address it but we have no written plan in place. We do understand that there will be the loss in spaces and we understand the impact that has.”
Sophomore Lexie Gardiner, a commuter, said that she doesn’t like the loss of parking spaces at all, and is unsure that there’s a need for upperclassmen housing.
“We already don’t have enough parking to begin with,” Gardiner said. “I feel like a lot of people live off campus to begin with…maybe put the building in a different spot because there are already so many issues [with parking] already.” Gardiner added that she felt like housing was limited across campus.
Sears said that the University is evaluating the parking situation all over campus, and is talking about adding a parking garage to accommodate more cars. He said that HRL collaborated with campus planning to determine the best site for the dorm, and “interestingly this was one of the best sites” for the project.
Overall, De Pace and Sears are “very optimistic about the project.”
“Campus life is, I think, a very important part of the college experience,” De Pace said. “When you went to high school, you went to school and you came home. Here the campus community, the growth of individuals by living and learning with their peers, is I think an important aspect.”