March 19, 2011

Howard wants to increase campus housing 28%

Last month Howard University’s Board of Trustees agreed to proceed the planning process to build 1,300 beds of student housing in two new dorms on campus. This marks a 28% increase from the current 4,609 beds the university controls.  This is smart move that will aid academic success and reduce commuting pressure through the surrounding neighborhoods.

View Howard University’s future development in a larger map

The university’s goal is to create a “Freshmen Village” on 4th Street just north of LeDroit Park.  Ms. Maybelle Bennett, Howard’s community outreach director, said that enhancing academic performance and graduation rates is the university’s motivation for concentrating housing and services for new students in Freshmen Village.  Since a student’s first year is critical to a student’s success during an undergraduate career, the university wants, as Ms. Bennett adoringly put it, “to bring our babies home.”

The university will add these two new buildings to their forthcoming campus plan proposal that they will submit to the Zoning Commission in the coming months.  Each university in the District is required to submit a campus plan for the commission’s approval every ten years.

We think this is a smart move on the university’s part and will benefit everyone.

National social benefits

Universities serve a unique social mission: they exist to educate America’s youth.  As such, we must remember that a university’s success is in the national social interest.  The university’s goal of improving academic performance is laudable and its reasonable measures should be supported on social grounds.

Traffic and environmental benefits

Furthermore, by bringing more students onto campus, the university reduces the commuting pressure currently placed on students and the surrounding neighborhoods. More students walking from bed to class means fewer students driving from home to campus.

As it stands today, hundreds of students commute from housing in Prince George’s Plaza alone.  Though most of them probably take the Metro, many will undoubtedly drive on occasion, thus adding traffic and pollution to surrounding neighborhoods.  Carpooling in a Prius still has a greater environmental impact than walking, which is mankind’s oldest, cheapest, cleanest, quietest, and most universal form of transport.

Economic development benefits

With 1,300 more people within a short walk of Florida Avenue, the new dorms will increase the economic viability of the commercial spaces along LeDroit Park’s southern edge.  All of the properties along Florida Avenue are zoned for both residential and commercial use, even though most are solely residences at the moment.  In fact a century ago the 400 block of Florida Avenue (across the street from the Post Office) hosted numerous prominent black-owned businesses and doctors’ offices.

What do you think? Are you supportive of the university’s desire to add more housing on campus?

Ms. Bennett will present the plan for Freshmen Village to the LeDroit Park Civic Association. The meeting is open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend. The meeting will be at 7 pm on Tuesday, March 22 in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (enter through the back at U and Bohrer Streets).

Categories: Development Projects, Howard University, Local Businesses, Transportation
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5 Replies

  1. Eric:

    Thanks for sharing this information about the two planned new dormitories to be constructed on campus. I can recall from a prior LeDroit Park Civic Association meeting a few years ago — regarding the campus plan — plans to relocate students from the Carver and Slowe dormitories, located in LeDroit Park, to dorms on campus — and then do something else with the empty dormitory buildings.

    Would the development of these two new dorms help fulfill the emptying-out-Carver-and-Slowe-dorms goal (assuming that that is still a campus plan goal) ?

    Scott Roberts of Bloomingdale - March 20, 2011 @ 8:26 am
  2. i also wonder what the long-term plans are for the dormitory on the northern edge of meridian hill park, since that is SO far removed from campus.

    IMGoph - March 20, 2011 @ 11:42 am
  3. Re: the dorm North of Meridian Hill Park, I ride near there every morning, and it is the source of much traffic consternation. The shuttle buses pick up students on Euclid St, and that partially blocks a travel lane, and then the bus continues West in an attempt to make a left turn onto 16th. Due to the size of the vehicle and cross traffic, often the bus is the only vehicle to make it through a given light cycle. It backs Euclid traffic up to 15th, and sometimes halfway to 14th St. I’m in favor of transit, but they have selected a poor pickup/droppoff location in this instance. Moving that shuttle stop to 15th st North of Euclid would improve the situation, and students would only have another 100 feet to walk.

    It’d be interesting to examine relocating the dorm closer to Howard, I always preferred being on or near campus as an undergrad, but the structure is prime for student or low income housing. If Howard relocates, I would imagine another university would try to pick up the space and do the exact same thing with it.

    wil - March 21, 2011 @ 12:40 pm
  4. There is nowhere for the residents of Meridian Hill Hall to move. Howard University has had very little support from the communities surrounding it to develop anything beyond it’s current bounds in many years. Like the artlicle indicates, the reason for developing new dorms has the intent of increasing retention for freshmen. As Howard still graduates a very large number of women, I believe the newest dorm additions would be for male students. This might finally mean the temporary closure of Drew Hall (on Gresham PL), but I would imagine this would finally allow for significant and necessary renovation to be done.

    To address a commenter above, as a former student and active alum, I’ve heard nothing of a plans to discontinue use of Slowe or Carver Halls. Both serve mostly upperclassmen. For the other commenters, Meridian Hill Hall also serves mostly upperclassmen. Maybe the open capacity left in the upperclassmen dorms can house more upperclassmen students closer to campus, instead of the horrible garden apartments in Silver Spring and Prince George’s county. It is possible that the new dorms will allow some (if not all) of the freshmen who have to live in these dorms to live in an environment more conducive to their transitions from childhood to adulthood and from high school graduate to college student.

    HU Alum - April 14, 2011 @ 2:24 pm
  5. At the recent presentations of the Howard U campus plan, Maybelle Taylor Bennett has said that the new dorms on 4th Street and the additions to the upperclassmen complex at 8th Street would lead to the closing of Carver, Slow, and Meridian Hill Halls. The former two might then become part of the housing that Howard wants to make available to new faculty that it expects to have to hire over the coming decade as Howard faculty retire. She was quite clear that the University has no intention to sell Carver or Slowe.

    Comm'r John Salatti - April 23, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

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