West Virginia University President Mike Garrison has announced plans to build a $20 million residence hall that not only will give the University a new tool to recruit the best and the brightest, but also help revitalize the Sunnyside neighborhood.

The new 91,600-square-foot, 362-bed dorm, adjacent to WVU s Summit Hall, will house WVU s Honors College, Garrison told reporters, city leaders and University officials Wednesday (Dec. 5) at Grant Avenue and Second Streetthe future site of the dorm.

The facility will include five floors, each with study and TV lounges; suites (two beds per room; two rooms connected by a shared bathroom make up a suite); apartments for a resident faculty leader (RFL) and a residence hall coordinator; and a courtyard. Amenities will include a large state-of-the-art multimedia room, complete with a screen and projector, where seminars and social events can be held; a laundry facility; Internet access; and office space.

Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2008 and is expected to be finished by the end of the 2008-09 school yearin time for students to move in for the fall 2009 semester. The architect for the project is Paradigm Architecture, and American Campus Communities has served as a development consultant. Garrison said the project will be put out to bid shortly.

Plans also call for expanding and refurbishing the dining facility and upgrading the fitness center in Summit Hall, which will serve students in both buildings, in conjunction with the residence hall project.

By building a new, attractive and convenient residence hall for our Honors College, we will give the University a new tool to recruit the very best students to our campus,Garrison said.

He added,Today we are taking action to keep students close to campus in clean, safe, warm and modern roomsand, in doing so, reduce traffic and commuting time, reduce the need for students to bring cars to campus, improve the neighborhood close to campus and increase our attractiveness to high-achieving students.

Garrison praised the Sunnyside Up partnership, while urging city leaders to step up enforcement against substandard housing in the Sunnyside area.

We are moving forward in large part because I am convinced that we now have a city council and a Sunnyside Up partnership that have the determination to eliminate unsafe and unsanitary student housing by decisive action,he said.Weve seen some real progress in this area. It is attracting private investment for the first time in three generations. But it has not gone far enough, nor fast enough. We all recognize that.

Garrison went on to say he wants to see every decrepit student rental property condemned and demolished unless they can be brought fully up to 21st century standards of construction, safety, sanitation and energy efficiency.

Its time to take bold action,he said.Those who have the power to act must do so or all of us will be held accountable. This is as important as anything else we do as a University community. It deals with the safety and well-being of our students, and safety is our first priority. This neighborhood can and will be a showplace. It starts today.

Provost Gerald Lang likened the Universitys commitment to Sunnyside to its commitment to One Waterfront Place.

When we made the commitment to One Waterfront, that seemed to be the nucleus that precipitated the redevelopment of the Wharf District,Lang said.Now the University is reaching out to provide the nucleus for the upgrade to the entire Sunnyside area.

After One Waterfront, weve seen a great revitalization of the Wharf District in its residential and commercial use,he said.Its been a great economic development opportunity for Morgantown. The excitement its created in the areaIts an exciting place to be, and were hoping that our commitment to a new residence hall will have the same effect in the Sunnyside area. The challenge is to show how that area can be transformed.

A new home for the Honors College with a residential college experience

The WVU Honors College includes about 400 freshmen, 300 sophomores, 300 juniors and 500 seniors, totaling more than 1,500 students.

With a new, larger place to call home (the Honors College is currently in Stalnaker Hall), Dean Keith Garbutt said the dorm will be able to house the entire first-year class, as well as administrative and advising offices, and offer a residential college experience where the dean of the Honors College is located in the residence hall.

The goals of a residential college are to mix formal learning with life outside the classroom, encourage intellectual curiosity and diversity, promote lifelong learning and encourage members of the college to become engaged members of the larger community.

Residential colleges create a student-centered environment by involving both faculty and students, who serve as mentors, in the daily workings of the community. These mentors are available to assist the members with any academic or personal concerns that may arise over the course of the year.

I am absolutely thrilled about this; the opportunities afforded by the new hall will be remarkable,Garbutt said.We hope to provide even more services and activities for the students in honors, and the new hall will give us many advantages.

Those advantages include plenty of space for tutoring, fireside chats and the Honors Programs popular living history program.

Garbutt said the new facilityalong with the Honors Programs reputation for combining an intimate scholarly community with the opportunities of a major research universitywill continue to attract the most gifted and motivated students.

The quality of the students continues to increase,he said.We have our best qualified class once again, and we hope to continue that trend.