July 22, 2014 : By Drew Menard
This fall, Liberty University will open Residential Commons I, its first high-rise residence hall. The building features nine stories and approximately 1,200 beds. Construction is in its final stages — exterior work is wrapping up, landscaping is underway, and interior work is bustling in preparation for students to begin moving in for the fall semester.
The new hall combines the social benefits of a traditional community hall with the privacy expected by incoming students. Each room accommodates two students and includes a private bath, with a long hallway connecting the rooms to encourage camaraderie. Hallways lead to a common area on each floor.
“We wanted to keep that traditional hall setting for students to build unity while also providing more privacy for the individual,” said Jamey Sublett, director of Student Housing. “Each floor offers community space where students can hang out, study together, eat, play games, or watch TV.”
These coed areas provide the luxury of a living room with plenty of comfortable seating, booths, and televisions capable of connecting to computers or game consoles. There is also a laundry room on each floor. The common areas are located in the center of the L-shaped building with a wing jutting out from either side. The wings, where the rooms are located, are divided by gender with one wing designated for male students and the other for female students.
Mark Hine, Liberty’s senior vice president for Student Affairs, said that the new residence hall is designed to enhance community. As campus continues to grow — with more than 13,200 resident students expected this fall — he said it is vital to ensure that campus remains inviting to the individual.
“It is not so much about the masses,” Hine said, “it is the personal touch that we want to give our students when they come to the university. Peer-on-peer contact is so important in a college student’s life. … People want to know that they are important as individuals. When we are able to build lots of small communities through our prayer groups (and) our brother/sister dorm activities, it gives a very large campus a very small feel.”
The new residence hall is another major milestone in Liberty’s $500 million campus rebuilding. Hine said he is blown away by how much campus has changed since he was a student in the early 1970s.
“Over the years it has been absolutely amazing to watch the transformation of this piece of property as Liberty has sprung up out of the ground,” he said.
When Hine was a student in the fall of 1973, Liberty’s current campus was still a dairy farm. In the spring of 1978 he moved into Dorm 4, one of several temporary living facilities that were located on Liberty’s Champion Circle. Several of those buildings were torn down recently to make room for the new residence hall.
“I watched the old pass out and the new come in, and it has been an amazing transition,” Hine said.
Some of those old buildings are now being used as temporary academic space, as the campus rebuilding continues to take shape. They will soon be torn down to build more residence halls and complete the Residential Commons.
“This new residence hall is propelling us into the future,” Hine said. “There are more coming behind it … these halls are giving Liberty the ability to provide state-of-the-art facilities for students while keeping the importance on the individual.”