Despite the uncertain and challenging circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, CU Denver’s first-ever student housing dedicated to first-year students is still on schedule to open August 2021. Nearing completion, City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons, located between the Tivoli Quad and the Student Commons/Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, will drastically change the look and feel of the downtown Denver campus.
“The word transform describes it best,” said Kade Ross, CU Denver’s director of housing and dining. “There will be this constant presence of people in the heart of campus. It’s going to be so fun, and we are thrilled.”
If the residence hall is any indicator of CU Denver’s future, it’s looking bright. Because of strong recruitment efforts, roughly 72% of beds, or 403 out of 555, have already been filled—which is more than expected this early on in the year, Ross said. Applications to live in City Heights will be accepted through the fall, at which point students who apply will be added to a waitlist.
The addition brings to CU Denver what the campus has been missing: an affordable housing option for first-year students that doubles as a central hub for academic enrichment opportunities and peer-to-peer connection.
A Silver Lining of the Pandemic
Just three months after the City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons broke ground in December 2019, COVID-19 hit and the economy came to a standstill. Because construction was deemed “essential,” the construction and design team behind the project, JE Dunn and Stantec, respectively, continued their work on the building—on time and under budget. And, with less disruption to the campus community.
“One positive outcome was that our construction didn’t have as large of an impact on the campus community since there weren’t as many people physically coming to campus,” said Caleb Jones, project manager for JE Dunn Construction.
About the Building
City Heights is strategically placed in the heart of the CU Denver neighborhood on the Auraria Campus, along a portion of Larimer Street, between 11th and 12th streets. Given the site’s close proximity to Speer Boulevard, campus planners foresee an enlivened corridor that further connects CU Denver students to the city of Denver.
The facility is made up of three wings. Two residential wings, one six stories and the other seven stories, will feature 555 beds in predominantly double and triple rooms, with pristine views of the Denver skyline to the east and south, snow-capped mountains to the west, and the lively Ball Arena to the north. Every other floor is equipped with small lounges, communal study spaces, and common areas with kitchenettes to foster a sense of community among the residents.
On the first floor of the north wing will be a dining hall open to all CU Denver students, faculty, and staff. The university has contracted with Sodexo to offer rotating food stations featuring all cuisine styles, as well as samples from local chefs and restaurants. Meal plans will be available for students, as well as faculty and staff. More details will come closer to the August opening.
Connecting the residence hall to the neighboring three-story Learning Commons is a spacious courtyard that will be adorned with grass, trees, flowers, and overhead lights, as well as a “portal” pathway from the Student Commons/Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center to the Tivoli Quad. Planners foresee all CU Denver students and faculty using the space to interact, study, and dine, further promoting a sense of community.
Connected to the residence hall, decked with floor-to-ceiling windows, offices, and gathering spaces, is the Learning Commons, which will house some of CU Denver’s most-visited student success and academic support services:
- Learning Resources Center
- The Math Lab
- The Writing Center
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Learning Assistants
- Peer Advocate Leaders (PALs)
- First Year Experiences
- New Student Orientation
- Parent & Family Program
- Space for Instructional Designers
- Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning
- Center for Faculty Development
A Sustainable On-Campus Housing Model
When the building opens in August 2021, university leaders envision a holistic, on-campus living experience, in which students spend the first year of college building their community at City Heights before transitioning to apartment-style living at the Lynx Crossing Residence Hall just a few blocks away. The housing geared toward upper-division and graduate students is currently undergoing improvements to interior furnishings, kitchen appliances, carpeting and flooring, and common areas.
In addition, last year, CU Denver housing and dining started a rate freeze program for all students who live in on-campus housing. Thanks to the Lynx Loyalty program, students can lock in their housing rates for each consecutive year they choose to live on campus. Meaning, if a student lives in a City Heights double room their first year and wants to live in a Lynx Crossing suite their second year, they will pay the same rate, even for the larger living space. The program allows students and parents to plan ahead, making for a less stressful transition while navigating life in college.
“As a single parent myself, I feel that the Lynx Loyalty program allows students and their families to adequately plan ahead and gain a sense of financial security,” said Tina Carroll, associate director of housing and dining. “Choosing to become a member of this program, by living on campus for consecutive years, will not only enrich the students experience, but will allow for students to maximize countless opportunities to develop outside the classroom within a supportive and intentional community.”
Soft Opening Set for August
City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons will have a soft opening the week of Aug. 11, before students and faculty return to campus. Over the summer, the building will undergo safety inspections and come to life with interior finishes. In early 2022, Einstein Bros. Bagels will open in a retail space in the southwest corner of the learning commons building. In the meantime, bagels will be offered to the campus community in a mobile shop when the building opens.
After a year unlike any other, the residence hall is another reason for the Lynx community to be excited for the fall 2021 semester.