By: Richard Belisle
SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — The Kowalski sisters, Cora, 21, a Shepherd University senior, and Shelley, 18, a freshman, spoke of experiences living in their respective residence halls Saturday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Potomac Place, the campus’ new student housing facility.
Ground was broken in May 2016 on the $22 million, five-story, 80,000 square-foot residence hall. In August, it opened to students who now live in its 289 rooms.
A construction loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority was provided to the Shepherd University Foundation Supporting Organization, which owns the building. Now that construction is over, that loan is being taken over by the USDA Rural Development Office. The foundation will pay it back over 40 years with income from student rents. The University will own the building once the loan is paid.
While the Kowalski sisters are from Charles Town, about 12 miles away, they chose to live on campus to, as they said, “live a full college experience.”
Cora moved into Potomac Place on the West Campus in August; Shelley into Thatcher Hall, a traditional Shepherd residence hall and one of the oldest on the East Campus.
“I’m living a real college freshman experience in Thatcher Hall,” she said.
Students there live in double-occupancy rooms in multiple-room suites with a single bathroom serving each wing. The bathrooms have enclosed stalls and showers.
Potomac Place has air conditioning. Students, on a first-come, first-served basis, choose a single or double room in each suite. Rooms have refrigerators and microwave ovens.
“There is a bathroom for every two students,” Cora said. “Everything is new here and it’s all incredibly updated with technology.” A modern kitchen on the first floor “is a common hot spot where we come together as a community, where we can get to know each other. There are two televisions on the first floor and one on each (of the other floors). There are projection screens for slide shows that can help when studying.”
The new L-shaped building has a classroom, student lounges, study rooms and internet and Wi-Fi capabilities.
“This beautiful facility marks the first time the university has entered into public-private partnership for this incredible, state-of-the-art residence hall designed with our students in mind,” Shepherd President Mary Hendrix said in remarks Saturday.
“The styling and amenities of this new residence attracted students very quickly. It is a stunning addition to our academic and residential West Campus complex, a milestone,” she said.
Jim Vigil, vice president for administration, has been shepherding the project from when it was first included in the university’s master plan in 2014.
Early discussions among university leaders were centered on a need to focus on and increase retention to offset dwindling enrollments and recruit more out-of-state students, Vigil said.
“It became apparent that having a vibrant and robust on-campus housing program with modern living accommodations was going to be one of the key components to the success of these plans,” he said.
The project came in on time and on budget, he said.
“The students love Potomac Place and they chose this endearing name for the building,” Hendrix said.
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