Beginning in June 2023, Elon University will be home to an additional residence hall in East Neighborhood. The new building will have 90 beds as well as a common area for students located at the front of the building. The building plans, presented by Elon University architect Brad Moore and town of Elon Planning Director Lori Oakley, were approved by the town of Elon council Oct. 24.
“We’re excited to have more opportunities for on-campus housing,” town of Elon Mayor Emily Sharpe said.
The plans for the new residence hall include 52 units, a “flex space” common area in the front of the building, student lounges and an office space. The building will be three stories tall and be called East Neighborhood Commons, according to the application submitted by Moore. The project aims to be completed by August 2024, allowing residents to call the new building home beginning in the fall of that year.
“This is going to be a great addition to our campus and our community not only for this neighborhood, but for the campus overall,” Moore said. “It will almost serve as a gateway coming in from the East to campus.”
Jane O’Boyle, faculty member in residence for the East Neighborhood, said the addition is a huge improvement for an already “fantastic neighborhood.”
“It’s very exciting. East is going to be a really exciting, active neighborhood after that building is done,” O’Boyle said.
O’Boyle said the most important aspect of the plans is the new common space, similar to LaRose Commons in the Historic Neighborhood. Up until this point, East events were held either outside or in other neighborhood’s spaces.
“This will just change everything. We’re going to get more engagement with residents, for sure,” O’Boyle said. “There will be a central hub for people to get to know each other and to do activities and to engage more with the faculty director and community director.”
Currently, the staff members for East live outside of the neighborhood, rather than in the neighborhood like in Colonnades or Danieley. The new building will feature apartments for live-in staff members.
Oakley, who started work with the town of Elon in June, said this is the first project she has been involved with from start to finish, which makes the East building even more exciting in her eyes.
“It's always exciting actually seeing them or watching them break ground on a project that you've watched go through the process from infancy and then actually see it built,” Oakley said.
For a plan to be approved by the town council, it must also be approved by town staff as well as the technical review committee. While the staff review consisted of Oakley and an additional staff member, the TRC review involves additional entities, including the county inspections department, the county fire marshal's office, the local fire department, members of the town of Elon Public Works department and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
“There's a lot of eyes on it, but it's a good thing because you want to make sure that there's no surprises for anyone,” Oakley said. “By having all the different departments engaged early on in the review process, I think it helps the applicant, the staff, definitely the council, just everyone involved in the project.”
Oakley said she looks to the town of Elon Land Development Ordinance, which governs any building or construction projects that take place in the town of Elon. Part of her role as planning director is to ensure the project is in line with the zoning regulations in place, such as parking and landscaping.
For the new residence hall, Oakley said each department involved in the planning process looked the project proposal over for their area of expertise; for example, the fire department checked accessibility for emergency services to the building.
After any necessary changes or revisions are made to the plan following the TRC review, the plans are presented to the town council and the public. In the town of Elon regular meeting on Oct. 11, the plans were reviewed in a public hearing, and citizens and town council members were given the chance to ask questions.
The plan was finally approved by the town council Oct. 24. But the review process does not end there, Oakley said.
“Their next step is to actually submit construction drawings, so we even do a more thorough review, if that's possible,” Oakley said. “It's just making sure that all the i's are dotted, all the T's are crossed.”
As she gears up to complete the next steps in the process alongside the university, Oakley said she is excited to get closer to breaking ground.
“I like seeing the actual project constructed because seeing it on paper… it's one thing to review it on paper and it's one thing to see the project come to life and actually be built and then see folks utilizing it,” Oakley said.