VCU construction to satisfy university needs and goals

Mechelle Hankerson
News Editor

Kate Sandy’s daughter will begin this fall as a VCU freshman living in a dorm. Sandy and her daughter live in the area and are looking into the possibility of commuting come next year, but with VCU’s most recent bout of construction, it may not be necessary.

“I think it’s really important to be part of a college campus, whether you commute or live on campus,” Sandy said. “(My daughter) has the ability to live on campus, so (she’s going to) try it out.”

Sandy said, specifically of new housing and parking garages, that the new construction is a way for the school to acommodatestudents’ needs while showcasing the school’s growth.

On Grace Street, VCU has begun construction on a parking deck and new student housing with local restaurant and hookah lounge, Sahara, between the two projects.

According to Brian Ohlinger, associate vice president of VCU Facilities Management, the school did offer the owners money to acquire the property, but was unable to buy the property.

“We offered above the official appraisal in an effort to acquire the property, but the owner wanted much more than we could reasonably offer,” Ohlinger said.

According to the online Richmond City Real Estate Assessor, the land Sahara sits on is worth $616,000 and the building is worth $219,000, making the total appraisal of the property $835,000.

“(The property) wasn’t essential; it would’ve been nice, but it wasn’t essential (to our projects),” Ohlinger said.

The West Grace Street South residence hall was put forth in accordance with VCU’s 2004 master site plan, which outlines different projects regarding the physical plant of both of VCU’s campuses. According to dean of student affairs Reuban Rodriguez, projects must also work with VCU’s strategic plan and from there, they are prioritized. If the projects require state funding, they are then presented to state legislature through the six-year capital plan.

“Typically … in the six-year plan, we don’t have the funding, but (it shows the state legislature) our priorities,” Ohlinger said.

Not all projects are funded through state funds. Some are a mixture of private and public, and others, like residence halls and parking decks, rely on future revenue generated from those who use the facilities.

On the MCV campus, a new school of medicine building has been in construction for a year and a half and will be finished within the next year and a half. According to Rodriguez, the building is funded through public and private funds, with the McGlothlin family providing one of the largest gifts in VCU history to the construction of the building ($25 million). Rodriguez said that the new building will be named for them.

“There hasn’t been a lot of funding from the state because of the economic conditions right now,” Ohlinger said. “We’ll see how this session goes this year and what we get, but our number one priority is the expansion of Cabell library.”

Projects are prioritized to fulfill VCU’s strategic plan, which details goals the university hopes to achieve over a certain amount of time.

Rodriguez said the West Grace Street North residence hall, the MCV School of Medicine building and the parking deck all relate to goals put forth in the strategic plan.

“VCU wanted to intentionally increase the number of medical students that come every year,” Rodriguez said. “Not only in Virginia, but across the country, there’s a shortage of doctors … so by finishing that building … we will be able to … increase the number of seats (at the medical school).”

Parking decks will provide more parking for faculty and students while new residence halls will help improve student services.

“For many years, we continue to have students who want to live on campus in VCU-owned residence halls,” Rodriguez said.

He added that the halls currently under construction will be finished by this time next year. VCU also recently received approval to build a similar residence hall on the north side of Grace Street, across from the current project. Rodriguez said that hall should be open in two years.

Suan Vo, a rising sophomore at VCU, said student housing is one of the things that VCU should focus on with it’s construction and future plans for the campus.

“I think more students look for having their own place, so if VCU were to provide more buildings that were more like apartment housing, I think students would like it,” Vo said.

Rodriguez also said that, within the first week of July, construction on a new state-funded classroom building for the School of Social Work and English department will begin near the VV surface parking lot. The project has been four years in the making, and while the concept of the building was approved, funding was not.

While VCU has faced state and federal budget cuts, construction costs are not affected by the same cuts.

VCU’s complete master site plan and six-year capital plan can be accessed online at the facilities management website (

VCU’s strategic plan can be accessed online at

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