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How the two new West Campus dorms, 300 Swift will fit into the housing puzzle

Wish there was more construction at Duke? The next five years may be for you, as plans for new dorms on West Campus take shape. 

Following up on comments to Duke Student Government last week, Duke administrators discussed plans for two new dorms on West Campus, including a new funding process, the implications for 300 Swift and the future of the residential experience. 

Executive Vice President Tallman Trask confirmed that two locations are being considered as likely sites for the new buildings. One is located on Towerview Drive and the other sits between the Hollows and Edens Quad.

The two new dorms will fulfill a long-term housing administration priority of bringing all upperclass students to West Campus, according to Joe Gonzalez, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life. 

Most students on Central Campus will be relocated to West Campus for the next academic year, as Central Campus will be decommissioned the day after commencement in 2019, according to Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs. However, some Central Campus residents will also move to 300 Swift. 

300 Swift will remain open past the end of the academic year, although administrators emphasized that the university does not intend for it to be a permanent undergraduate housing option. The building was bought to temporarily house upperclass students during renovations to Craven and Crowell quads, which were expected to last three years. 

"When 300 Swift was purchased, it was done so with the hopes it would only temporarily house undergraduates and that has not changed," Gonzalez wrote to the Chronicle.

The new dorms will have around 500 beds, Gonzalez estimated. 300 Swift houses 420 undergraduates for Fall 2018, according to the University. The increase in capacity will allow Duke to withstand future increases to enrollment without new construction.

"It allows us to comfortably meet the on-campus housing demand we foresee in the coming years," Gonzalez wrote.

Moneta expressed hope that the project could be completed within five years. 

While the opening of the new dorms may be years away, the design and funding processes are already ramping up. 

"We're having a lot of conversations. I'm talking to the President [Vincent Price], I'm talking to Larry [Moneta], I'm talking to architects," Trask said. 

He added that architects for the new dorms will likely be hired within the next four to six months. 

The residential experience of the new dorms is still unclear. The experience will be spearheaded by the Next Generation Living and Learning Experience Task Force, which was established by the Board of Trustees in May 2018. 

Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education and vice chair of the task force, said that while the plans for the dorms predate the task force, it will play a role in the dorms' integration with the rest of campus life. While the task force will address the new dorms, it will also examine the rest of Duke's residential experience.

"The group's goal is to consider all of our residential communities in our deliberations—not to focus on any specific locations," Bennett wrote. 

The task force will meet at each Board of Trustees meeting this academic year, as well as with university stakeholders throughout the year. It will submit a report with recommendations by April 15, 2019, said Bennett. 

The new dorms will also require a shift in the university's approach to funding residence halls, Trask said. Previous projects, including Blackwell and Trinity on East Campus, and the renovations to Craven and Crowell quads on West Campus, have been funded through debt paid back with housing revenue. 

However, according to Trask, there is no longer capacity for new debt out of current housing revenue.

"We've always known that the Hollows was the end of the line for the traditional financing mechanism," Trask said.

Instead, the new dorms will rely on philanthropic contributions from donors. While the process is a new approach for funding on-campus housing, it is common both at other universities and for non-housing construction at Duke.

Trask estimated that it would take "a couple of years" to raise the contributions necessary for the new dorms. While the current estimate for both dorms is around $100 million, that number may change as the process develops.

"Except in dormitories, new infrastructure on campus tends to be philanthropy-driven," Trask said.

Correction: This article originally stated that a site for one of the two new dorms would be at the intersection of Towerview Dr. and Science Dr., but were informed that the cross-street is incorrect. Therefore, the article has been updated to reflect the fact that the dorm will be along Towerview Dr. The Chronicle regrets the error.


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