Construction begins on new 400-bed residence hall

The Villa Park Orchards Residence Hall, located at the corner of Cypress Street and Palm Avenue, is set to open in time for the fall 2019 semester and could house up to 400 sophomores and upperclassmen. Photo by Melissa Zhuang

The university recently broke ground on the new Villa Park Orchards Residence Hall, which will stand at the corner of Cypress Street and Palm Avenue, one block from Dodge College.

Construction, which began in December, follows the university’s November announcement that all underclassmen will be required to live on campus beginning fall 2019. It’s part of a larger initiative to provide more housing options to move students outside of the historical neighborhoods around campus.

The dorms are set to open in time for the fall 2019 semester and could house up to 400 sophomores and upperclassmen. The dorm’s opening will take place a year after Chapman Grand, the university’s $150 million housing venture in Anaheim, will open to student residents this fall.

“The city has been concerned about increasing the presence of our students in the city,” University President Daniele Struppa told The Panther in November. “I think that this will allow our students to have access to incredibly high-quality facilities and at the same time, not being in the position of creating conflicts with the residents.”

The Old Towne Preservation Association, a nonprofit organization for the protection of the Old Towne historic district, has been pushing for three years for Chapman to jumpstart off-campus housing.

Sandy Quinn, president of the association, along with his fellow members, has expressed concerns that students living off campus are noisy and behave inappropriately.

After years of bringing light to the issue, Quinn is pleased that Chapman has been “aggressively trying to solve the housing problem.”

“That’s a huge jump in a short period of time to add all these beds,” Quinn said.

The rooms in Villa Park Orchards will have a suite-style layout, meaning that each will have a living room and kitchenette. The residence hall will also include a large multi-level outdoor courtyard, lounges on each floor, centralized laundry, multiple bathrooms in each suite and parking in the West Campus structure near the Digital Media Arts Center.

The Villa Park Orchards Residence Hall is part of a larger initiative to provide more housing options to move students outside of the historical neighborhoods around campus. Panther archives

After a lengthy approval process, the start of construction marks the second phase of the dorm’s development. The goal of the first phase was to uproot and transport two historic sheds to the north side of the property – which also holds the Villa Park Orchards Association packinghouse, a structure dating back to World War I. Developers had to obtain multiple permits and work under existing preservation laws, which include a review of the site’s historical significance.

The packinghouse will undergo an exterior renovation and could house student services, classrooms, offices and the Hilbert Museum of California Art. No historical structures are being demolished, said University Vice President of Campus Planning and Operations Kris Olsen.

The campus planning staff has been working closely with the Old Towne Orange Preservation Association throughout the process, and officials have held multiple meetings with the association to discuss each aspect of construction– including traffic, parking, amenities and security.

“I always look at (the housing issue) as a collaboration between the city, the university and the neighborhood, as long as we work together and not spend time on the problem, but spend time on the solution,” Quinn said.

On Jan. 22nd, Parking and Transportation Services sent a school-wide email reminding students and faculty of the Cypress Parking Lot closure, which is being used by construction vehicles.

Though officials cannot yet determine how the closure will affect traffic during the semester, Chapman will provide alternative options for commuter permit holders, including opening the top level of the Jim Miller Parking Structure and leasing 100 parking spaces at the First Christian Church on East Walnut Avenue, about a three-minute walk east of campus.

Due to the construction, the Orange Home Grown Farmers and Artisans Market, which was located on the packinghouse site for six and a half years, has moved. The Saturday morning market has found a temporary home in the parking lot of Chapman’s Becket Building at 303 W. Palm Ave., about a block from the construction site. The market has also closed off the block between Lemon and Cypress Street for vendors.

“It’s bittersweet because we’ve grown to love the packinghouse, but we’re excited to be in the new location,” said Executive Director of the Market Megan Penn.

Some vendors are excited by the upcoming change.

“I like the layout; it’s free-flowing,” said Lydia Bedoya-Jaime of Black Sheep Farms. “We’ve gotten a lot more new customers, and they’ve kept coming back so far.”

Some students are excited about the prospect of living so close to the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

“That would be a dream to live right next to Dodge, just for the closeness and to be with other Dodge majors,” said junior public relations and advertising major Emma Liegler.

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