Calling UMass Lowell “a campus on the move,” UMass Building Authority executive director Katherine Craven was one of several officials to break ground April 5 on University Suites, a state-of-the-art, $54 million residence hall.
“This building will be a model; it is transformative,” she said of the all-suites facility, which will house 472 students in four- and six-bed units when it opens in the fall of 2013.
“You will look back in 30 years and say, ‘I was there the day they broke ground,’” Craven told the faculty, staff, students and community members in attendance at the groundbreaking event. “This campus is undergoing a transformation.”
“Student enrollment has climbed to more than 15,000 – a 37 percent increase over the past three years – and with it, the demand for housing,” Meehan said. “This new residence hall, the University’s first since 1989, meets that demand, providing a state-of-the-art environment for student living and learning, while maintaining the inspired architectural style and landscaping of Lowell’s historic district.”
Richard Freeland, who knows something about transforming campuses, said, “Do not underestimate the importance of this project and what it means to transform a campus from a commuter campus to a residential one.” Currently the commissioner of Higher Education for Massachusetts, Freeland is the former longtime president of Northeastern University who led the transformation of that campus from a commuter school to a highly selective residential campus with a growing reputation.
Other event participants included state Rep. Thomas Golden, Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy and Student Government President Brian Dano.
The residence will include two common kitchen/lounge areas, two quiet study rooms and a group study room on each floor. A first-floor common area, open to the UMass Lowell community, will feature a café, a multi-purpose room and a 70-inch, high-definition television. A courtyard outside the brick, U-shaped building will face the Campus Recreation Center and include a seating area for outdoor events.
The new residence hall will help UMass Lowell achieve its goal of a 50-50 split between commuter and residential students, a priority identified by Chancellor Marty Meehan shortly after he was named to the post in 2007.
University Suites will be constructed in part with recycled materials and with the goal of maximum energy efficiency throughout, striving for LEED Silver certification. The building’s architectural design evokes Lowell’s textile and industrial heritage and complements the Northern Canal neighborhood, which includes LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners, and the former Lawrence Mills.
Research shows students who live on campus are more apt to be academically successful and the university community is more cohesive when a greater number of students live on campus.
“UMass Lowell has successfully encouraged students to live on campus. Today that number sits at 40 percent of undergraduates, up from 28 percent five years ago,” said UMass Lowell Dean of Students Larry Siegel. “Our vision is to increase the residential community to 50 percent while offering the ideal variety of living options in first-class facilities that are comparable to those at other leading institutions across the country.”
Surveys of UMass Lowell students have shown that more want to live on East Campus, near the rec center, ballpark and Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, as well as the city’s downtown.
The UMass Building Authority, through which the cost of the residence hall is being bonded, has oversight of the project which is being managed by Joslin, Lesser + Associates Inc. of Watertown. The building’s architect is ADD Inc. of Boston. Walsh Brothers of Boston is the building’s construction manager.
University Suites is the latest project in UMass Lowell’s multi-faceted building boom.
Also under construction is the $70 million Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center on North Campus. The 84,000-square-foot research and academic facility will be the hub of industry partnerships and new manufacturing technologies led by world-renowned, next-generation scientists. The building will open this fall.
Meanwhile, the 69,000-square-foot Health and Social Sciences Building is also under way. The first new academic building to be constructed from the ground up on UMass Lowell’s South Campus in more than 30 years, it will house some of the university’s most popular majors: criminal justice and criminology, nursing and psychology. The $40 million building is slated to open in Spring 2013. Two new parking garages are also under construction, one each on UMass Lowell’s North and South campuses. Apartment-style housing for 510 students adjacent to south campus, under construction by a private developer, is also scheduled to open in Fall 2013.