JMU starts a new academic year with a new residence hall, parking deck and an overhauled Wilson — and several other major projects still in the works

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By Catie Harper, contributor

Without many students on JMU’s campus for the last three months, the university crossed some key construction projects off it’s to-do list, giving the sprawling campus a slightly different look. It even spruced up the main entrances to campus with stone signs. 

As the 2019-20 school year officially gets underway Monday, here’s a rundown of what’s newly opened (or reopened) and where some other major building projects on campus stand. 

PROJECTS THAT ARE DONE

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While Paul Jennings Hall opened this month, it still looked like this in March. (Photo by Bridget Manley

Paul Jennings Hall

With JMU banking on enrollment growth over the next several years, the university needed another residence hall for freshmen and other students who want to stay on campus. Paul Jennings Hall is named for the man who was a slave owned by James Madison before going on to write the first memoir about life in the White House after he bought his freedom. 

Construction on the residence hall began in 2018, and it opened its doors for the first time this week. The new dorm will house 500 students for the 2019-20 school year.

Located near the Convocation Center off University Boulevard., the residence will also be connected to East Campus by a bridge located behind the University Recreation Center. JMU spent $47.8 million on both the new dorm and bridge, according to the school’s campus construction page.

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East Campus Parking Deck 

The new convocation center and basketball arena, the Atlantic Union Bank Center, might not be finished (see the list below), but the parking deck next door is. The structure,, which has 1,500 available spaces, opened earlier than advertised in time for the fall semester. The $24.3 million deck was initially slated to open for the start of the 2020 school year, according to the JMU construction page.

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Renovation of Wilson Hall

The focal point of JMU’s Quad has undergone a major interior overhaul while also receiving some updates on the exterior. It’s the first time since 1931 that the building has had a “major renovation” according to the school’s website. 

Wilson Hall has been closed to the public since Jan. 1, 2018, when its renovations started, but will open again this fall as the new home for JMU’s history department. While it’ll house the history program, the auditorium will be used as a meeting place for different campus activities once again. JMU expects the auditorium to return to its “original grandeur” while being used by multiple organizations.

The cost of the project is estimated at $16 million. 

Reworking of the Godwin Hall Lot

The schools’ G Lot, which is located in front of the JMU Bookstore and Godwin Hall, was reconfigured toadd more parking spaces. 

The lot used to have spaces running perpendicular to Godwin Hall and facing the Bookstore. Now, the rows run parallel to Godwin Hall instead. 

While construction on the lot is finished, the same parking restrictions apply as in the past. It’s restricted for freshmen and only available to commuters and residents after 4 p.m. on weekdays. There will still be 23 metered spots for temporary parking. 

STILL IN THE WORKS

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Atlantic Union Bank Center

While JMU Athletics finished a few projects over the summer, such as replacing the Zane Showker Field, work continues on the big-ticket item: the Atlantic Union Bank Center, which has an estimated price tag of $86.7 million. 

The new arena will be the new home for JMU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams starting in 2020. The JMU men’s team is already scheduled to play the University of Virginia — the reigning NCAA National Champions — during its first season in the new venue.

For basketball games, the arena will sit 8,500 guests, while the school expects it to be able to hold 10,000 visitors for events like concerts. The new facility will also include club rooms for basketball games, suites and practice courts for the student-athletes. 

New Dining Facility 

When the 2017-18 school year came to a close, so did the life of two of JMU’s longtime dining facilities. The university tore down Phillips Hall, which was home to P.C. Dukes and Top Dog — a pair of popular food locations that served more than 40,000 meals per week, according to JMU. 

Starting in the fall of 2020, a new retail dining space will open where Phillips Hall used to operate. Right now, similar food options to P.C. Dukes and Top Dog are being served in D-Hub, which was originally used as a temporary all-you-can-eat dining facility while the newest dining hall, D-Hall, was being built. D-Hall opened last fall.  

The new project to replace Phillips Hall will cost an estimated $25.1 million and is being built by WM Jordan, a construction company working with clients in Virginia and the Carolinas. 

Extension to Grace Street 

During students’ spring break last year, JMU began rerouting Grace Street so it will directly connect to Bluestone Drive. 

The new addition to Grace Street runs from the intersection with Mason Street past the Student Success Center then down the hall past Madison Union. The road will also pass by the new dining facility that’s replacing Phillips Hall. The project is expected to be completed in November, according to an article by The Breeze. Grace Street is still blocked off around the Student Success Center and the Grace Street Parking Deck.

JMU also plans to add a gate near the parking deck to keep through traffic limited during school hours. 

New College of Business Building 

Zane Showker Hall, which houses the business program, was built to serve 2,400 students when it opened in 1991 but the College of Business has nearly doubled in size since then and now serves more than 4,000 students. 

JMU elected to add a 210,000 square foot addition for the College of Business and will spend $71.2 million on it. Construction began last fall on the new building and is expected to open next fall, then the existing Showker Hall will undergo a year-long overhaul. It is scheduled to be complete in 2021. The project is being funded by the state and from fundraising from private donors, according to the construction page.


 

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