President Kaplan on Parking, Housing, and New Building (Q&A)


Photo by Patricia Oprea

Last time we talked, you said you were looking for feedback on students living on campus and how to keep them on campus. Have you made any significant changes since then?


We had a company come in here and they met with a lot of faculty and staff, mainly staff, in May and students were just leaving and they were just back a few weeks ago and, yeah, we learned a lot. And we’re going to make some changes, but we need to better understand what we’re learning before we make the changes. For example, we know we need to de-triple some of the residence halls, Gerber and Bixler in particular, and others, but we’re also seeing that, for instance, that even though tripling in some of these buildings is an inconvenience, the retention rate for students that are tripled is higher than those that aren’t. We want to look at different meal plan options that allow students that have kitchens to be able to cook. We know in Winchester and Sheffield they would like the kitchens to be more operative than they are – put the stoves back in. So we’re weighing all of these things, we haven’t made any decisions yet. Meanwhile, we need more housing if we de-triple and do all these things, so we’re talking to the developer of the Atwood about the next phase, which is the building that will go up across the street and we know that we need to make some improvements physically on some of the residence halls.


Is there a plan in the near future for more residence buildings other than the Atwood?


They’ll be tearing down the strip malls across the street from the Atwood sometime next month, at the latest by December, and yeah, he would like to break ground and begin the next phase, which would like to open in the Summer of ’19. Nothing more on campus, not right now, there’s nothing planned.


Obviously if you de-triple the rooms, there’s going to be a need for more housing, but also now that the university is accepting more students. Is that going to be addressed?


Through off-campus development, but near campus. We’re being contacted by developers all the time. I could see in the coming years…I could see us having down in Allingtown 300-400 more students. More towards private developing as opposed to on campus.


Are there any other types of expansion that you’re looking into for the coming years?


As far as new buildings? No. We’re looking at new programs and maybe shifting enrollment some. We have a new health sciences department, we’re talking about a physician’s assistant program, we’re always looking at new majors. But outside of the new innovation center, no new buildings.

There was some speculation that the Shop Rite facility would be taken over.


No, not right now. It’s not in the cards for us. Not right now, and no we’re not doing anything down there. That’s another potential site some day for more student housing.


Is there any plan to improve parking on campus?


We’re always buying up land, we’re negotiating with the city on some property that would add [spots]. We have to find 225 spaces, I believe, just to replace the parking for the innovation center. And we can’t break ground on the innovation center until we’ve signed a lease with someone to replace that parking. And we’re now pushing through about 200 more freshmen that will now need parking – not all 200 of them but about half of them – so we’re going to need more parking next year just because of that. So, yeah, we’re always buying up property, we’re always looking at trying to lease property. When I leave campus and when I come in in the morning I always see people desperately hunting for parking. I know it’s an issue, it troubles me, but parking’s not just an issue at the University of New Haven, it’s an issue on almost every campus.


Do you have a more concrete timeline of what construction of the new innovation center will look like?


Our plan is to break ground in the spring. And we still have a few final hurdles with replacing the parking, in order to get the zoning approvals. We have a few final approvals from Wells Fargo on the financing because some of the gifts are five year gifts, so we need short-term financing. But assuming all that goes through, we’re breaking ground in the spring. We need some bridge funding from Wells Fargo, and we should know by mid-November, so soon.


So breaking ground in the spring, what will that mean for construction?


Completion will be open for the summer of 2019. So we’ll be in there in the fall of 2019.


Once construction is started, how will it shift campus operations?


So when the building construction begins, all that parking will have had to already been replaced, near campus and accessible, and that we’re working on. Otherwise, it’ll be fenced off, the flow of traffic will be the same as it is now. It shouldn’t pose any changes or inconvenience.


At what point will there be a cutoff to classrooms in Buckman Hall?


There will be some work being done in Buckman, in terms of there will be some offices that come online because there’s a connection going through Buckman that will probably take place…but Buckman for the most part will not be disrupted.


And the two buildings will be connected, correct?


There will be an atrium connecting them. There will actually be a hallway connecting the two buildings. And we’re hoping students who aren’t even using either building will go through because the atrium’s gonna have a coffee shop and it’s gonna create a space like we don’t have in the campus center right now.


Since the last briefing on what will go in the building, have there been any changes?


No. It’s still everything we’ve designed. I was in the architect’s office maybe a month ago and took a virtual reality tour of it. It’s an incredible building.