By Lisa Kopochinski
GRANVILLE, Ohio—Denison University, a liberal arts university in central Ohio, is undergoing construction this year on a mega-project that involves a new student apartment building, updating its dormitories, building a new student wellness center, and more.
The Business Journal reported in January that, according to the university, the projects include a more than $25 million student apartment building, an approximately $16 million renovation of half of its existing dormitories, and a new approximately $10 million student wellness center. Information about the architect firm and general contractor to be involved has not yet been disclosed.
Work this summer will be on Crawford, Shorney, Smith, Curtis and Myers halls, with King Hall scheduled for 2020-21 construction for a fall 2021 opening.
The new Student Wellness Center is currently in the design phase.
“We’re thinking about putting it on the steep area across from our parking garage,” said Art Chonko, Denison University director of facilities services.
When completed, the new center will offer counseling, wellness and opportunities for training and student wellness activities, he said.
Denison University Spokeswoman Ginny Sharkey told the Business Journal that the investments “are about ensuring our campus is a safe, comfortable environment for learning, living and working.”
These projects could help Denison’s 2,300 students navigate an increasingly competitive higher education environment, in which it has become more critical for colleges to take proactive measures to attract students.
The Newark Advocate reported that another major piece of construction being contemplated is a new central heating plant on campus. If that happens, the new plant would replace the one currently in use in the building located across the street from Ross’ Granville Market on South Main Street. The cost of this project has not yet been disclosed.
Chonko noted that heat generated from that plant is currently, and rather inefficiently, pushed through old pipes running under Mulberry Street up to the university. If plans go forward, the new plant “would move to a bowl near the Mitchell Center,” so it would be inside the campus and not in view from Pearl Street or elsewhere.
“It would be in area of parking lot behind the Mitchell Center…buried in the hill,” said Chonko.
Additionally, the university has identified safety concerns related to the street running along the west side of the center and connecting West Broadway and West College Street. Currently, on-street parking along the connector results in line-of-sight issues tied to a crosswalk there.
“We have some cars going through there pretty fast now,” he said. “The crosswalk has some people stepping out from a behind a (parked) car,” to see if it’s clear to cross.”
Mayor Melissa Hartfield expressed some reservations about any plans that might significantly reduce parking in that area, but also made it clear, there is no desire “to sacrifice safety for parking.”
In a statement, Chonko said that Denison’s slate of projects are being funded by a combination of sources, including bond issuances, a university campaign called Unlocking Potential: Investing in Denison, and “generous alumni support.” The campaign, so far, has raised $207.4 million of its $225 million goal.
The university’s major focus is concentrated on updating all of its student housing over the next several years.
Overall, he added, “It’s going to be a busy year.”