VCU has two more dorms on deck

VCU’s 500 Academic Centre used to be a Ukrop's store. (Photo by Burl Rolett)

VCU’s 500 Academic Centre, which used to be a Ukrop’s, will make way for housing. (Photo by Burl Rolett)

Virginia Commonwealth University’s construction binge continues.

The school’s board of visitors last week approved the issuance of $41 million in bonds to pay for two new dormitory buildings at the corners of Grace and Harrison streets and Ryland and Broad streets.

Totaling 160,000 square feet, the two five-story buildings will add 426 beds, pushing VCU’s on-campus housing capacity to almost 6,000 students as total enrollment hovers around 31,000.

“We’re catching up to the demand for upper-class housing,” said Brian Ohlinger, VCU’s associate vice president for facilities management. “Typically about 85 percent of freshmen want to live on campus, and that reflects just over 3,000 beds, so that leaves us only 3,000 beds for sophomores, juniors and seniors.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2014, with the dormitories to be completed in August 2015. Construction costs will run about $36.4 million, Ohlinger said. W.M. Jordan will be the contractor for the two buildings, and Clark-Nexsen Architects have the design contract for the job. The Times-Dispatch first reported plans for the new dormitories.

The developments will be built on surface parking lots next to VCU”s 500 Academic Centre, which was previously a Ukrop’s grocery store across the street from the Siegel Center. The university purchased that property for $9 million in 2008, but Ohlinger said the site had been in the school’s plans for much longer.

“We identified it back in 2004 that if that property became available, that’s an acquisition we would want to make,” he said. “It did become available, and we bought it.”

VCU has added more than 3,000 beds added in the past 12 years. It plans to add another 1,000 beds before leveling off at about 7,000. The school has settled on locations for future dormitory construction, but Ohlinger would not disclose the sites because VCU has yet to acquire the land it hopes to develop.

VCU has more towers on the rise just blocks away from its latest dormitory project. Phil Roper of MGT Management is working on a $20 million mixed-use VCU apartment tower at 900 W. Grace St. and a 78,000-square-foot office and classroom building at 912 W. Grace St.

The two new dormitories buildings will feature apartment-style rooms, and each unit will have its own kitchen, a small common room and a washer and dryer. Plans also call for some retail space on the ground floor of the building that will front Broad Street.

Rent for on-campus housing at VCU averages about $600 per month, Ohlinger said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that construction on the dorms would begin in March 2015 and completed by the following summer. Construction will begin in March 2014 and the dorms are expected to open by August 2015.

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