BY ANNIE KINNIBURGH
The University of Mary Washington plans to break ground in early spring on a new 300-room student resident hall on the Park and Shop property across Route 1 from the campus.
School officials say students could be moving in to the new resident hall as soon as fall 2010.
UMW is working with a development team including RRMM Architects to design the new facility, which will be paid for by the UMW Foundation.
Vice President of Administration and Finance Rick Hurley said student housing was slated first for construction because of the enormity of the project.
“Student housing is the biggest piece of the project and will take the longest to complete,” he said.
The new facility, which will hold 600 beds, will allow the University to eliminate forced triples in on-campus residence halls.
Nico Anderson, who lived in a forced triple during the fall of his freshman year, switched rooms during the first semester because of the crowded conditions.
“I really disliked it,” Anderson said, now a sophomore. “There was no floor space whatsoever. I was forced to get a loft, which I would not recommend to anyone.”
SGA President Sean O’Brien, a senior, spoke in favor of the new dorm.
“The new housing opportunities can, if done right, provide students with the opportunities of off-campus housing with the connivance and safety of on-campus housing,” he said.
Other planned facilities in the recently aquired space include new retail chains, additional student parking and a pedestrian bridge that would cross Route 1. Hurley said that the bridge will arrive partially assembled and be completed on site.
He declined to say how much construction of the new complex would cost.
“We have a development team hard at work since we announced that we purchased the primary shopping center,” Hurley said. “The team works together to estimate cost, work with banks to ensure financing, and put together conceptual designs.”
Hurley said that the development team envisions the complex looking like an open-air mall.
“It would look like a modern market square with offices and residential areas on top of retail stores, with a lot of trees and grass and landscaping,” he said.
This is currently a popular trend in campus design on other campuses, such as that of Christopher Newport University.
“I think this project really shows a commitment by the University to improve itself,” O’Brien said. “Eagle Village will give Mary Washington its own ‘college town’ feel as part of the greater campus.”
Construction is expected to begin soon.
“We hope to begin construction in the early spring at the latest,” Hurley said. “Ideally it would be open by fall 2010.”
However, Hurley said that those dates could change due to potential conflicts with the current and future retailers. Chains now operating in the Park and Shop complex include Blockbuster Videos, Giant, and Quiznos.
“It’s difficult because we must honor the existing leases of properties in the Park and Shop center and design spaces accordingly,” he said.
Future retailers are still under discussion, Hurley said, although students have suggested chains like Panera Bread and Maggianos, an Italian restaurant.
“We have to consider several things, though,” he said. “Do vendors and chains want to come here? Is it the right space for them?”
O’Brien said that the Park and Shop will benefit even graduated students by improving the University’s overall image.
“For many of us here at Mary Washington now we will never get to experience the things that Eagle Village will bring to our campus,” he said.
However, he added, “I think it will be the greatest addition to UMW in a long time and I hope those planning it continue to seek student opinion on the project.”
Hurley would not comment on the chances of the University acquiring the Twi-lite Motel or Country Cookin,’ the two properties on the complex that have not yet been purchased.