President Lambert briefs community on Elon’s development plans

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert held a session March 30 with about 60 local community leaders to share details of the university's campus development that is guided by the Elon Commitment strategic plan.

With several major construction projects set to begin immediately following Commencement, Lambert said it is important to keep Elon’s “closest neighbors and friends apprised” of the plans to expand campus housing and add academic and student life facilities.

Lambert told the group about the work that is under way to transform a former food processing plant on Haggard Avenue into a new home for Elon’s graduate health sciences programs. The doctor of physical therapy program will move into the building, which will be named the Gerald L. Francis Center, this December, and will be joined by the new physician assistant studies master’s program, which will open in January 2013.

Another addition to campus will be the Elon Town Center on Williamson Avenue in downtown Elon, which is being built by local developer John McDonald on university-owned property. The building will be the new home of Elon’s bookstore and other retail facilities, and is scheduled for completion in August.

Lambert detailed Elon’s plans to construct housing for 1,600 students over the next three years, increasing the percentage of students who live on campus from about 60 percent to 75 percent. Studies consistently show that college students who live on campus are much more likely to stay in school, graduate on time and have better learning experiences.

The new residence facilities include the Global Neighborhood and dining hall that will replace the Story Center and Harper Center next to Lake Mary Nell, and The Station at Mill Point, a cottage-style village designed for juniors and seniors on the fire station fields on South Williamson Avenue. Construction on these two residence complexes will start in May, just as construction is being completed on three new residence hall buildings in the Colonnades residence area next to Koury Business Center, and five new houses for fraternities and sororities in Loy Center.

A new multifaith center, supporting Elon’s religious and spiritual life programs, will be added as the final pavilion in the Academic Village quad. Lambert showed architectural renderings of the facility and explained its importance to the campus community in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding. He also invited the community members to visit the new Alumni Field House adjacent to Rhodes Stadium, which opened recently, along with the remodeled Alumni Gym.

Lambert said that one of the most frequently asked questions he receives is, “how are we going to pay for all of this?” He pointed out that the new student housing is being paid for by 30-year bonds that are financed by student room and board charges. Generous support from philanthropy will finance most of the other construction costs, including funding for the Francis Center, multi-faith center and athletics facilities.

“We are using our dollars very judiciously and wisely,” Lambert said. “We understand that the middle class is very pinched right now – the weak economy is affecting lots of families. We want to keep Elon’s costs under control as best we can, because our lower price is a distinct advantage.”

Local businessman Steve Whitfield, who walks the Elon campus on a regular basis, said the university is “a huge asset” to the local community. “The pride that the people who work here have in the campus is unbelievable,” Whitfield said.

John Currin, president and CEO of Alamance Regional Medical Center, spoke about ARMC’s decision to provide financial support and create a partnership with Elon in launching the physician assistant program.

“Thanks to you and your board of trustees for your vision in starting the PA program,” Currin said. “We think it is going to be an excellent program.”