The University of Denver has announced a large-scale development plan that will change the landscape of the campus with the addition of more retail and dining outlets.
The school unveiled the Denver Advantage Campus Framework Plan on May 30. Chancellor Rebecca Chopp said it will better connect the 125-acre campus to its surrounding communities. The private school is in the University neighborhood of south Denver, with the core of campus at 2199 S. University Blvd.
“It was our deep commitment to try to open up our campus to be used more,” Chopp said. “When you think about campuses, they’re these phenomenally large facilities that are just not used enough.”
In addition to improving and building new student facilities, DU is looking to add mixed-use retail and restaurant developments with housing, as well as a hotel. Chopp said the plan will be flexible in order to meet the needs of students and neighbors over the next decade. She added that she hopes the ambitious scale of the plans at DU will attract developers and shop owners who want to be a part of the expansion.
“It really sets the table for what we could be,” she said.
The first phase will be three new buildings that are expected to be completed by the summer of 2020, and will cost a combined $143 million. The first two, a 500-bed dormitory for first-year students and a “Community Commons,” will be under construction in mid-June, and the third building, the Career Achievement and Global Alumni Center, will follow in January.
The Community Commons will include classroom, study and dining spaces. The Career Achievement building will provide students with the opportunity to build relationships with DU’s alumni and to network with potential employers.
Outside of the three buildings, the school has not started the design process on new structures. DU is working with Ayers Saint Gross, a Baltimore-based architecture firm. The school board would need to vote on individual building projects within the plan before construction starts.
Chopp said construction at DU will happen in clusters around the school instead of spreading the work throughout the large campus. This way, students can navigate around building projects. The plan has been divided into phases, and Chopp said they are hoping a bulk of the projects will be finished in eight to 10 years.
The school will also look at adding affordable housing projects, and potentially even senior housing in the area.
Construction on the buildings and open spaces in the plan will happen as funds become available. Cost estimates for completing the entire plan are still being estimated, the school said.
The upcoming residence hall at the school will be paid for by student room and board charges. The Commons and Career Achievement Center are being paid for by donations to the school as well as development partners. The school is hoping to use similar development partnerships to fund future construction.
Once the buildings open, all students will pay a new fee of $6.50 per credit hour to support the commons building.
Adam Gross, a principal with Ayers Saint Gross, said the mixed-use developments will help add additional revenue streams to DU through lease terms.
During the presentation Gross said some buildings will be renovated, such as Sturm Hall, which serves as an academic building. Others, like 50-year-old student dormitory Johnson-McFarlane Hall, also known as J-Mac, would be demolished. Gross said J-Mac in particular would have cost more to renovate than to build a new structure. The building will be replaced with a new building for undergraduate housing.
“You’re kind of throwing good money after bad by continuing to invest in it,” he said.
Campus buildings are currently separated into different sections across the 125 acres. Gross said the new construction plans would help to better connect those parcels. The school is also planning on improving mobility around campus, including new pedestrian and bicycle pathways. A pilot program for a new shuttle system will launch in July.
Part of improving pedestrian access is making the walk around campus safer for students. The school estimated that more than 12,000 people cross Evans Avenue every day. DU will be adding special crosswalks that provide medians in the road for pedestrians to safely wait.
“We are trying harder and harder to find ways to make it more natural to move across campus, and that the cars understand that they’re in a pedestrian zone,” said Mark Rogers, the university architect.
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