U.Va.'s Dormitory Builders Will Face a Tall Order; Casteen Declines Raise

December 12, 2008

December 12, 2008 — Members of the Board of Visitors' Buildings and Grounds Committee got their first look Thursday at plans for the University's first six-story residence halls. Expected to open in 2011 and 2012, the buildings represent the second phase of the ongoing Alderman Road replacement project.

Three existing dormitories — Balz, Dobie and Watson houses — will be razed to make way for the new dorms, plus a student commons building that also will open in 2011. Balz and Dobie will be demolished this summer, with Watson to follow in the summer of 2010.

Kellogg House, a five-story dorm, opened this fall. The eight-story Bice House, which has apartments for upperclass students, is U.Va.'s tallest housing structure.

Colette Sheehy, U.Va.'s vice president for management and budget, said the sixth floors are necessary in the new dorms in order to ensure enough beds to meet anticipated enrollment throughout the replacement project. The new buildings will combine to house 400 first-year students and resident advisers.

If the third phase of the project is built to similar heights, she added, the University may be able to avoid building one additional dorm, thus saving $17.7 million in today's dollars.

In presenting the buildings, University Architect David Neuman said that some of their mass will be offset by the site's topography and landscaping. They will be built into a hillside, and thus will appear smaller from the rear, facing Observatory Road. Mature trees will partially screen the buildings' fronts, which will face an open area.

The student commons building is a new addition to the project. The as-yet-undesigned one-story building will be sited between the two new dorms. It will seat 240, and will host dinners, speakers and recreational and social events, Neuman said.

Once complete, the entire dorm replacement project will provide nearly 500 additional beds — increasing the total inventory along Alderman Road to 2,226 beds — while actually creating more open space than exists now, Neuman said.

Additionally, the two new dorms will be the first to meet LEED certification standards for environmental sustainability, and may possibly reach LEED Silver status, the second-highest rating offered.

The committee is expected to take formal action on the phase-two proposals in February. Members were given a preliminary look as part of a newly instituted building review system designed to give board members the opportunity to offer design input earlier in the process. They also saw plans for a multipurpose arena at U.Va.'s College at Wise.

Neuman also showed the committee revisions to the designs of two new science buildings that will go up along Whitehead Road, near Scott Stadium. In October, committee members had objected to some elements of their design, which they nevertheless approved with the understanding that changes would be forthcoming.

On Thursday, Neuman presented those changes. Before-and-after slides of the Information Technology Engineering and the Arts & Sciences Research buildings chiefly highlighted alterations in rooflines and window design.

"Are there any comments on these designs?" committee chairman L.F. Payne asked. No one objected.

Utility work for the buildings is already under way and construction will move forward as planned.

In other matters before the Buildings and Grounds Committee:

• The committee backed an expansion of the already approved addition to the Moser Radiation Therapy Center, to be built near the Northridge Center on U.S. 250 West. A $500,000 addition to the budget – bringing the total cost to $3 million — will allow the addition to accommodate a larger linear accelerator and provide enough space for a future proton therapy unit.

• The committee also received a report on the first projects backed by the Grounds Improvement Fund, which draws from a 1.5 percent surcharge on all new construction. Among the projects funded: the replacement of an informal parking area along University Avenue near the Sigma Nu fraternity house with a park-like landscaped area (which the fraternity ceded in exchange for the ability to rent space in the new Arts Grounds garage); the relocation of a popular Rugby Road bus stop away from the busy Culbreth Lane intersection; sidewalk improvements near the Rotunda; and improvements to the Darden Court, near the Engineering School, that will allow the school to host special events there.

Casteen Will Receive No Raise This Year

Following the Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting, the board's Executive Committee held its annual discussion on compensation for the president.

The discussion was brief, as University President John T. Casteen III had already made it clear that he would not accept a raise this year, said W. Heywood Fralin, University rector.

Members of the executive committee, including Fralin and John O. Wynne, vice rector, praised Casteen's decision and further applauded his philanthropic giving to the University. They then approved a resolution commending the president for his action.

At the beginning of the University's $3 billion campaign in 2006, Casteen and his wife, Betsy, committed to giving $500,000 over five years to the University, requesting that the funds provide scholarship support for children of University staff and faculty.

In addition, the Casteens make an annual year-end gift to the University.

Casteen recently announced in a letter to alumni and parents that they would designate this year's gift for AccessUVa, the University's financial aid program. He said that they are increasingly concerned about access to higher education and the impact of the current financial crisis on middle- and low-income families.

The Casteens' total giving for this year will be $110,000.

— By Dan Heuchert