Work will begin next month on a year-long project to build the first of two new residence halls on the West Virginia University campus now that a contractor has been selected, facilities officials announced this week.

Whiting-Turner, a construction firm headquartered in Baltimore, submitted the low bid for the contract on the project and will begin work around Aug. 19.

This is the first project Whiting-Turner has taken on at WVU . The company built Raven Stadium in Baltimore and just completed a major shopping center in Pittsburgh.

Plans call for the 351-bed residence hallwhich will sit between University and Rawley avenues near the Evansdale Residential Complexto be completed prior to the fall 2006 semester.

The $14.5 million student housing project is the first to be built since 1968 when the last of the four ERC TowersBennett, Braxton, Brooke and Lyonwere completed.

The state-of-the-art, 80,000-square-foot hall will feature four floors of suite-style living (4 students to a room) with a connecting bath; commons area; mini theater; laundry; learning center; study lounges on each floor; and high speed Internet and phone connections throughout. Space for a Resident Faculty Leader, a respected faculty member who lives near students to mentor and guide them, will also be provided.

The project is part of a 10-year, $40 million housing improvement plan that includes construction of another new hall with approximately the same number of beds on the Downtown Campus, next to Summit Hall, and renovations to the four existing towers. Construction on the downtown hall will begin in fall 2006 and renovations to Towers will follow each year thereafter.

The housing plan addresses WVU s growing student enrollment and changing housing trends among students, and underscores the Universitys commitment to the first-year experience.