Despite the uncertain and challenging circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CU Denver’s first freshmen dormitory is slated to open in August 2021, the Tivoli Quad and the Student Commons / Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center drastically change the look and feel of the downtown Denver campus.

“The word transformation best describes it,” said Kade Ross, director of housing and dining at CU Denver. “There will be this constant presence of people in the heart of the campus. It will be so much fun and we are excited.”

If the dorm is an indicator of the future of CU Denver, things are looking good. Due to strong recruitment efforts, around 72% of the beds, or 403 of 555 beds, are already occupied – which is more than expected at the beginning of the year, said Ross. Applications for living in City Heights will be accepted through this fall. From this point onwards, the applicants who apply will be placed on a waiting list.

The addition brings to CU Denver what the campus was missing: affordable freshwater housing that doubles as a single point of contact for academic enrichment and peer-to-peer connections.

A silver lining from the pandemic

Just three months after the City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons laid the foundation in December 2019, COVID-19 hit and the economy stalled. As the construction was deemed “essential”, the construction and design team behind the project, JE Dunn and Stantec, continued their work on the building – on time and on budget. And with less disruption to the campus community.

“On the positive side, our construction didn’t have that big an impact on the campus community as there weren’t as many people physically coming onto campus,” said Caleb Jones, project manager at JE Dunn Construction.

About the building

City Heights is strategically located in the heart of the CU Denver neighborhood on the Auraria Campus along part of Larimer Street between 11th and 12th Streets. Given the site’s proximity to Speer Boulevard, the campus planners are envisioning a busy corridor that will further connect the students at CU Denver to the city of Denver.

The system consists of three wings. Two residential wings, one with six stories and the other with seven stories, will offer 555 beds in mostly double and triple rooms and offer pristine views of the Denver skyline to the east and south, the snow-capped mountains to the west and the lively Ball Arena North. Every second floor is equipped with small lounges, communal study rooms and public areas with kitchenettes to promote a sense of community among the residents.

On the first floor of the north wing is a dining room open to all students, faculties, and staff at CU Denver. The university has signed a contract with Sodexo to offer rotating food stations with all styles of cuisine, as well as samples from local chefs and restaurants. Meal plans will be available for students as well as faculty and staff. Further details will come closer to the opening in August.

The dormitory with the neighboring three-story Learning Commons connects a spacious courtyard, which is adorned with grass, trees, flowers and ceiling lights, as well as a “portal” path from the Student Commons / Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center to the Tivoli Quad. The planners anticipate that all students and faculties at CU Denver will use the space to interact, study, and dine, which further fosters a sense of community.

Connected to the dormitory, which is decked out with floor-to-ceiling windows, offices, and meeting rooms, is the Learning Commons, which will house some of the CU Denver’s most-attended academic achievements and academic support services:

A sustainable living model on campus

When the building opens in August 2021, university leaders envision a holistic on-campus experience, with students spending the first year of college building their community in City Heights before moving to the residential building at Lynx Crossing Residence Hall a few blocks away. The enclosure, aimed at upper-grade students and graduate students, is currently undergoing improvements to interior furnishings, kitchen appliances, carpets and floors, and public areas.

In addition, last year CU Denver Housing and Dining launched a rate freezing program for all students living on campus. Thanks to the Lynx Loyalty Program, students can set their housing prices for each consecutive year they want to live on campus. This means that if a first year student lives in a double room in City Heights and wants to live in a Lynx Crossing suite in the second year, he pays the same price, even for the larger living space. The program enables students and parents to plan ahead, resulting in a less stressful transition while managing life in college.

“As a single parent, I feel that the Lynx Loyalty Program enables students and their families to plan ahead appropriately and gain a sense of financial security,” said Tina Carroll, assistant director of housing and dining. “The decision to join this program by living on campus for several years will not only enrich the student’s experience, but also allow students to maximize myriad opportunities to feel outside of the classroom within a supportive and deliberate community to develop.”

Gentle start Hire for August

The City Heights Residence Hall and Learning Commons will gently open the week of August 11th before students and faculty return to campus. Over the course of the summer, the building will undergo security inspections and will come to life with interiors. In early 2022, Einstein Bros. Bagels will open in a retail store in the southwest corner of the Student Commons building. Meanwhile, bagels will be offered to the campus community in a mobile shop when the building opens.

After a year like no other, the dormitory is another reason for the Lynx community to look forward to the fall semester 2021.

This press release was produced by the University of Colorado, Denver. The views expressed here are the author’s own.