VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University marked the opening of its newest living and learning community, The Commons, with a blessing and dedication from Villanova President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, Wednesday, Aug. 28. The Commons houses 1,135 students, allowing Villanova to now offer housing to 85 percent of its students. Construction began in November 2015 and was completed in June 2019. The Commons are part of a $225 million transformation of the institution’s former surface parking lots along Lancaster Avenue/Route 30.
“The opening of The Commons is the culmination of extraordinary efforts by many, both within and outside Villanova University over a number of years,” said University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD. “The end result is a magnificent living and learning environment that will be enjoyed by Villanovans for generations to come. With the new Pedestrian Bridge and stone architecture of The Commons creating a beautiful new entryway to campus, you will now drive through Villanova instead of past Villanova.”
The Commons consist of six apartment-style residence halls—Arch Hall, Canon Hall, Chapter Hall, Cupola Hall, Friar Hall and Trinity Hall. These mark the first new residence halls built at the University since 2000 and bring the total number of on-campus residence buildings to 32. Amenities include two fitness centers equipped with weights, cardiovascular training equipment and aerobics class space for spin classes, etc.; IT TechZone space for students to connect, collaborate and innovate; six community rooms; a smart-locker mailroom; and outdoor courtyards for students to meet and study.
“The Commons project has truly transformed the entire landscape of Villanova, creating a striking new gateway to the University,” said Ken Valosky, Executive Vice President of Villanova University. “One of the primary goals of developing this space was to create more on-campus housing options for our students, and with the completion of The Commons, 85 percent of undergraduates can now live on campus. What was previously a nondescript parking lot is now a vibrant living space with first-class amenities that will benefit our entire community.”
The collegiate gothic look that’s distinctive of Villanova’s campus can be seen throughout The Commons. A team from architectural firm Robert A.M. Stern Architects came up with the vision, look and feel for the complex and Philadelphia firm Voith & Mactavish Architects brought the vision to life. Construction was completed by Torcon, Inc., using 5,000 tons of stone in a precise blend of colors. Architectural features of the new buildings include turrets with decorative cast stone accents, a cupula and cast stone crosses.
“I told the architects at the beginning of this process that I wanted these buildings to look as though they have always been here,” said Marilou Smith, Senior Project Manager in Facilities Management at Villanova. “The buildings are exactly what we envisioned and mirror the distinctive collegiate gothic look that is so evident throughout campus. The Commons really completes the Villanova campus, adding a new gateway to our University and making Villanova’s most iconic building, St. Thomas of Villanova Church, the focal point of what is now the center of our campus.”
A key aspect of The Commons is its sustainable design and benefits. On the outside, all light fixtures are dark sky compliant, reducing light pollution. Two cisterns located underground will collect stormwater from the roofs, filter the water and re-use it to cool the buildings. Three bioswales along Lancaster Avenue, designed as walls with seating, will remove debris and pollution from surface water runoff. In all, it is estimated that 400,000 gallons of water can be saved each year with this sustainable infrastructure. These areas will also be used as stormwater test sites, allowing College of Engineering faculty and students to further their cutting-edge research in the areas of stormwater management and green infrastructure. Inside the buildings, students will find energy-efficient and motion sensor light fixtures and low-flow plumbing fixtures to help reduce energy costs.
The Commons will also be home to the University’s first restaurant, The Refectory. Villanova partnered with Greg Dodge and Zavino Hospitality Group (ZHG) for the restaurant, which will serve elevated American classics to both the University community and area residents. The University and ZHG also partnered with Parliament Espresso & Coffee Bar for a grab-and-go café with prepared sandwiches, pastries and coffee drinks. Both locations will be situated on the east side of The Commons, at the corner of Lancaster and Ithan Avenues, adjacent to the new Performing Arts Center, which is scheduled to open in 2020.
About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.