VCU finished its newest addition to residential housing over the summer: the updated Gladding Residence Center.
The first set of freshman residents — about a third of the total 1,518-student capacity — moved into the double traditional and semi-suite room style dormitory commonly known as GRC on Aug. 12. The early move-in came as a perk for those participating in VCU’s week-long summer programs such as Ram Camp, the Honors College Freshman Research Institute and the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation STEM camp.
“At first glance, I saw that everything was brand new,” said freshman Ester Pinkson, a biology major. “I was just so excited to have a new mattress, a new shower, a new everything — it’s just really refreshing.”
The hall includes amenities like study rooms, community kitchens, a gaming center, an indoor gym and gender inclusive communal bathrooms with European-style partitions and locking shower doors.
Standing 12 stories tall with four “neighborhoods” for student engagement, the center was first approved by the VCU Board of Visitors in early 2016 as a $96 million project, according to university public affairs.
The new residence hall replaced the Gladding Residence Center phase one and two buildings and is located at the intersection of Main and Laurel streets. According to university public affairs, the 360,000 square foot dorm increased capacity by about 600 beds, allowing more freshmen to live on the Monroe Park Campus.
Trade-offs came in the form of Gladding Residence Center phase three reverting back to freshman-only housing. West Grace South, Ackell, Cary and Belvidere and Grace and Broad residences reverted back to only housing upperclassmen — with the exception of freshmen entering Living-Learning Communities — and Cabaniss Hall now houses a mixture of freshmen, upperclassmen and graduate students.
Reuben Rodriguez, Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, said the comprehensive project was the result of a private-public partnership between VCU and American Campus Communities, the “nation’s largest developer, owner and manager of high-quality student housing apartment communities,” according to its website.
Rodriguez said VCU tried to envision “what the students might want” in anticipation of the year 2018 when GRC’s planning first began.
“My favorite part of the GRC is definitely the little lobbies on each floor (that) everyone hangs on,” said undecided freshman Tianna Vannarath. “Everyone is just really friendly.”
GRC’s amenities go well beyond the living spaces. The first floor contains VCU Residential Life and Housing offices, a housing leadership center — open to students involved in the RLH community for relaxation and study purposes — and a “building support space,” where students can go when they are in need of emotional or academic support, encouragement or just someone to talk to.
Almaz Belayneh, Contributing Writer