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Preliminary plans call for a traditional facility for underclassmen that would create a quad with three existing dorms

IMAGE COURTESY OF GEORGE FOX UNIVERSITY - Graphic photo: Gary Allen
A preliminary rendering depicts how the new residence hall George Fox University is currently designing along Villa Road will create a quad with three of the school's existing dorms. In this rendering, Villa Road House, has been moved into the quad space between the residence halls, but that aspect of the plan has not been finalized. 
George Fox University announced in December that it is moving forward with plans to build a new residence hall to accommodate more undergraduate students on campus as the school continues to grow.

The university's board approved the project, which is unnamed but expected to open by fall 2019, at its October meeting.

George Fox put out a request for proposal (RFP) to architects, but the preliminary plan is to construct the new facility near the corner of Villa Road and Fulton Street and create a residential quad with its Brandt, Le Shana and Gulley facilities.

"This new residence hall will allow more students the opportunity to experience the spiritual formation we have found so often accompanies life on campus, as students live, learn and grow in their faith in a community of Christian peers and mentors," GFU President Robin Baker said in a release.

The initial plans called for one of the two buildings located at the proposed site, Villa Road House, to be relocated inside the quad area, but according to Vice President for Student Life Brad Lau, that may not be possible as potential architects will also have to weigh other priorities, like the amount of green space in the quad and how it would otherwise fit into the architecture of the quad.

"I wouldn't rule it out, but it's still very much up in the air," Lau said. "We're exploring options and trying to get the costs of the various proposals."

Villa Road House currently houses students and could be relocated to another spot on campus.

"It is a nice house that students like living in, so we're exploring options," Lau said. "We're going to see what's possible, how much we can keep intact if we did something like that. It's still pretty early."

Lau said the university had identified several other possible locations for new residence halls in its 50-year campus master plan, but that the main attraction to Villa Road House site is that it won't eliminate much existing housing, especially if that structure can be included in the design or moved.

"We also really like the quad concept where you have four residence halls in community there with an open green space," Lau said. "It really creates and enhances a strong sense of community and connection between the residents of all four of those buildings."

Both Lau and Baker tied that concept as key to the fulfillment of the university's "Be Known" promise, especially in light of its growing enrollment. A record 2,414 undergraduate students enrolled this fall and overall enrollment was more than 4,000 for the second straight year, a rise of just under 900 from the 2006-2007 school year (3,185).

George Fox has a two-year residency requirement and Lau said that 1,315 undergraduates lived in campus housing this past fall and more than 400 of those were upperclassmen. He added that at least 50 upperclassmen had expressed interest in living on campus but the school did not have enough space to accommodate them.

For that and other reasons, like cost, Lau said the new facility will likely be a traditional residence hall, which would in turn free up some existing non-traditional on-campus housing for upperclassmen.

"We have so many different kinds of housing that it really gives us some flexibility so we have adequate housing to offer our juniors and seniors, but our largest populations will always be our first two years because of the residency requirement," Lau said. "This one, we believe works well as a traditional residence hall. If and when we build another facility, I think that will need to be designed more specifically with juniors and seniors in mind."

Lau added that doing its part to address the housing problem in Newberg was, and will continue to be, a consideration as the university plans for the future.

"We want to be really good neighbors with Newberg," Lau said. "We love being here and we recognize housing is a challenge, not just in Newberg but across the state and across a number of cities, states and areas. It's a more complex situation than to just say we have George Fox students who are in the community, but that certainly can be part of what we hope, through this, will help."

The preliminary plans for the new dorm call for a four- or five-story building with between 150 and 200 beds, but that number could drop if the school ultimately opts for a more diversified design featuring more multiple-student suites.

The school is expected to meet with potential architects in the coming weeks in hopes of beginning construction as soon as May or June.

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