On a wooded plot of land just beyond the north edge of campus, nestled behind the cross section of Forest Rd. and Alumni Dr., Jacksonville University is in the process of constructing the foundations of a new student experience, Dolphin Residence Hall.
Scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2015, Dolphin Residence hall will be a 70,000 square-foot, four-story housing development with three wings and 277 beds. The facility is designed to house first-year students as well as one live-in staff member. It will also contain an apartment for visiting faculty or an additional staff member.
Described by the University as representing “ the best new practices in student housing, including collaborative living space and modern amenities,” the facility comes at a total cost of $12 million.
“This project represents a new era for campus life at Jacksonville University,” said JU President Tim Cost, in a Dec. 10 University press release. “And it is part of a larger push to create additional attractive amenities for today’s outstanding students – our students. Engaging, modern living spaces are an absolute priority for any institution looking to expand and evolve.”
Student residences will be constructed in community style halls with two students per room. Rooms will include upgraded features such as a sink and vanity area, with community bathrooms for each hall. Students will also have access to two community kitchenettes, game rooms, study lounges, and spaces designated for group activities.
“We are really working to incorporate the intellectual component into the residence hall,” said Kristie Gover, Ed.D., chief student affairs officer.
Designed with a blend of “social space” and “academic space” in mind, Dolphin Residence Hall will facilitate “a lot of opportunities for students to connect with one another” and “to study where they live in a private space,” Gover said.
The building will include a residential life satellite office, academic classroom space, a lobby with a fireplace and conversation nooks, a multi-purpose room, laundry facilities, and high-tech amenities such as fiber optic communications, CAT-6 wiring, and cell phone range extenders, according to the press release.
The outside of the building will contain multi-purpose green-spaces for student recreation.
“It will be a very inviting space where students will hopefully hang out and spend a lot of time,” Gover said.
Before the Blueprints
The development of Dolphin Residence Hall emerged from an intensive research process.
Before developing the plans, the University Residential Life staff visited and observed the first year living facilities of other similarly sized higher education institutions including Wake Forest University, Texas Christian University, Vanderbilt University, and Belmont University.
“ [One of the] things that we learned is that consistently across the board in higher education, the most important component of a first-year residence hall is the development of community,” Gover said.
Additionally, the staff examined the desires and experiences of JU students, speaking to student residential advisers and members of the Jacksonville University Student Alliance in Spring 2013.
Ideas generated by JU students included the incorporation of community kitchens, sinks in the resident’s rooms, expanded study space, and community bathrooms.
“Interestingly enough, the [request for a] community bathroom was pretty consistent,” Gover said. “Students felt that the community bathroom really forced students out of their rooms to take care of some of the essential needs, and that this was a great way to meet other students.”
The land where Dolphin Residence Hall is being constructed is owned by Rimrock Devlin Development and will be the first residence hall not built onto JU owned property. Instead, JU will lease the property from the developer. This project is part of “the school’s redevelopment of old Arlington in conjunction with the City of Jacksonville,” according to the press release.
“The unique thing about our relationship with the developer is that we will continue to manage the residence hall as if it’s our own,” Gover said.
Changes for Existing Residence Halls
The beginning of student life in Dolphin Residence hall also marks a potential end for student housing in some of the school’s older, more storied and weathered buildings located at the south of campus.Constructed in 1968 as an all female residence hall, Botts Hall has not served as planned housing for students since spring 2011. Since then, it has been used for overflow and, as of the spring 2015 semester, is empty of students. It currently serves as the location of athletic offices.
Williams Hall, adjacent to Botts, is set to follow the older building’s footsteps and will be closing in fall 2015. Breast and McGeehee Halls will continue to serve as designated housing for Greek organizations. Plans for alternative Greek housing are in the discussion for a future phase, said Gover.
“The future of these buildings are not determined,” Gover said. “ The plan is to not use them for student housing.”
Oak Hall will remain open to students and is scheduled for upgrades, including the development of more “designated community space.”
Future Housing Developments
“This is phase one of the development. Our ultimate goal is to have all first year students living in the north campus area and develop that true first year living-learning community for our incoming students,” Gover said.
While “Phase Two” of the North Campus housing development is still to be determined, preliminarily, plans include a duplicate building with a different focus on community spaces.
“Long-term, in a future phase, we want to make sure that we are developing the outdoor space as well so students take advantage of the Florida weather,” Gover said.
Potential long-term outdoor developments include a wading pool water feature with an outdoor kitchen space and cabana as well as expanded green spaces.