New City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons Opens

August 16, 2021

City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons isn’t just a new dorm–it’s a gamechanger for CU Denver. 

It’s a space where first-year students will live together for the first time in the university’s history. A space where they will study together in shared nooks, cook together in communal kitchenettes, and foster lifelong friendships. It’s a space where all CU Denver students will get academic support through hands-on services such as Math and Statistics Support, Writing Center, and Learning Resources Center. It’s a space where students, faculty, and staff will connect over a meal in the new dining hall, or get some fresh air on a spacious park-like courtyard. 

The university’s first on-campus housing dedicated to first-year students officially opened its doors Aug. 12 and will welcome 555 students on move-in day Aug. 18. That’s full-capacity, with a waitlist. The modern complex brings to the university an affordable housing option for CU Denver’s diverse student body that doubles as a central hub for academic support and peer-to-peer connection. 

Campus leaders agree: City Heights puts CU Denver one step closer to achieving its strategic vision of making education work for all.

“We truly envisioned and designed this building to support student connectivity,” Chancellor Michelle Marks said during an Aug. 12 dedication ceremony, which drew more than 100 CU Denver community members, as well as CU Denver Regents Nolbert Chavez, Ilana Spiegel, Callie Rennison, and Jack Kroll. “It’s all about helping our students be successful.”

People standing in front of building
From left: Monique Snowden, senior vice chancellor for strategic enrollment and student success; Regent Nolbert Chavez; Regent Callie Rennison; Provost Constancio Nakuma; Regent Jack Kroll; Chancellor Michelle Marks, Regent Ilana Spiegel; Jennifer Sobanet, executive vice chancellor of administration and strategy; and Chris Hilton, Student Government Association president.

A Bold Vision for a Bold University

City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons was put on CU Denver’s 10-year Facilities Master Plan and approved by the Board of Regents in 2017. Driven by existing needs and targets for enrollment, research growth, and the need for more space, the plan includes new facilities and renovations that leverage the university’s focus on urban engagement. It will also fulfill students’ desire for more affordable living and learning opportunities on campus. 

When planning the City Heights complex, university leaders envisioned 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, located on the west side of campus. Research shows that students who live on campus are more likely to have higher grade point averages, become more involved with the campus community, complete their degree at their initial institution,persist and graduate with greater frequency, and enjoy easy access to campus resources. City Heights sits adjacent to the Student Wellness Center and within a short walk to the Auraria Library.

People sitting in patio outside of building
CU Denver community members mingle over delicious food at the dining hall’s outside patio. To the left, running through the center of City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons, is a “portal” connecting the Student Commons/Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center to the Tivoli Quad.

Marks joined the university more than one year ago and grew that vision in parallel to a 10-year strategic plan coined “Make Education Work for All.” City Heights and the Learning Commons support the strategic plan by providing a central resource that meets the needs of CU Denver’s diverse population through communal gathering areas, dining options, study spaces, academic services, and faculty development opportunities—all at one convenient location in the heart of the Auraria campus.

CU Regent Kroll knows the impact of CU Denver’s newest addition. “When I was a freshman, I had to live with my parents because this wasn’t an option,” he said at the Aug. 12 dedication ceremony. Kroll completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at CU Denver and served as the Student Government Association President. During his time at the university, under the leadership of Chancellor Emerita Dorothy Horrell, he saw CU Denver make strides as an institution, such as naming its very own mascot, Milo the Lynx. 

City Heights, he said, is next-level. “It’s another step in the progression of the rise of CU Denver’s campus,” said Kroll, who just started his term as chair of the Board of Regents. “It brings a residential component to the center of campus, and it really enhances opportunities for all undergraduate students.”

“Unlike Any On-Campus Residence Hall”

City Heights excites many CU Denver students, especially after an extremely challenging year that hindered social interaction. “City Heights makes campus feel less like a destination that you drive to,” said Cade Bachman, a sophomore studying political science who serves on the Student Government Association (SGA). “It truly is built around campus integration.”

Jordan Stoner, a resident assistant (RA) who has been living in City Heights since early August, said the building is unlike any on-campus residence hall she’s ever lived in. Her unit has high ceilings, natural lighting, and an unobstructed view of the neighboring Ball Arena, which hosts hockey and basketball games and concerts. She also pointed out the ample dresser and closet space. “There’s even a smoothie bar in the dining hall downstairs,” said Stoner, a sophomore studying music business. 

The smoothie bar is part of CU Denver’s first dining hall open to all students, faculty, and staff. The university has contracted with Sodexo to offer rotating food stations featuring all cuisine styles—in addition to a massive Mongolian grill, salad bar, and ice cream station—as well as samples from local chefs and restaurants. Meal plans are available for students, as well as faculty and staff. 

CU Denver community members who use the dining hall will receive a reusable, green to-go box. The eco-friendly practice is one of many in the building. City Heights is in the process of becoming LEED Gold certified. On a portion of the roof are bee hives and planters. 

Connected to the residence hall, decked with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the city skyline, offices, and gathering spaces, is the Learning Commons, which is home to many of CU Denver’s most-visited student success and academic support services. It’s also equipped with a floor devoted to faculty development.

City Heights promises to transform CU Denver’s community in profound ways. Above all, it will provide a safe, central space for all students to feel supported and connected.