It’s an entirely new way of imagining student life on the Blacksburg campus a decade from now.
At its recent quarterly meeting, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors received a high-level presentation for a proposed Student Life Village.
The university is currently developing a Student Life Village master plan that proposes residential, well-being, recreation, dining, and enrichment spaces for up to 5,000 students on campus. The plan will focus on integrated, high-quality student-life offerings as well as living-learning programs, amenities, and public spaces to serve both on- and off-campus students.
Potentially located on the northwest side of campus, the Student Life Village study area includes the phased usage of the land bank formed by the special-purpose housing at Oak Lane and the golf course.
The plan for the Student Life Village would supplement Beyond Boundaries 2047: The Campus Plan which the board adopted in 2018. The campus master plan, which has gained national recognition, is a flexible, adaptable, and evolutionary document that will help achieve Virginia Tech’s strategic vision and serve as a road map for the future.
“The Student Life Village is a new take on campus living,” said Frank Shushok, vice president for student affairs. “We want to create better connectivity to the curricular, extracurricular, and social activities of the campus beyond a student’s first year. The Student Life Village concept would provide affordable and developmentally appropriate on-campus housing to upper-division students. We also want to make the Student Life Village a place where off-campus students, faculty, and staff feel welcome.”
“It will be a distinct district with new opportunities to innovate in well-being, living-learning experiences, building technology, and sustainability,” said Liza Morris, assistant vice president for planning and university architect. “The village master plan intentionally leverages topography and place-making strategies to embody Hokie Spirit in a new context while embracing Virginia Tech’s values and land-grant heritage. This affords us the option to utilize place-appropriate forms and materials.”
It is conceived as both a living-learning environment for the students who reside there and a destination to visit for the rest of the university. The Student Life Village would enhance the Virginia Tech student experience with living, study, dining, exercise, activity, and contemplation spaces, including a proposed interfaith chapel and technology-free zone. Key to the concept is enrichment programming with a focus on a diverse range of well-being practices.
“Envisioned as a new model for living and learning, well-being is embraced by the proposed spatial design of the village,” said Shushok. “The Student Life Village would provide the variety of spaces needed to practice holistic well-being with the flexibility to adjust to changing preferences.”
The project was approached in an intentional manner, including developing the land to take advantage of natural resources; pedestrian, bicycle, and motorized traffic patterns; ecological buffer zones; waste management; sustainability over time; accessibility; safety and security; and indoor air quality.
The landscape framework for the Student Life Village would be responsive to the ecology, topography, and heritage trees that define the site. To the maximum extent possible, existing trees will be incorporated into the open space along with a network of accessible pathways. The proposed Central Green of the village will be augmented by a series of quadrangles that collectively are envisioned to promote a sense of openness, while providing opportunities for construction engagement and interaction.
The landscape of the village would reaffirm Virginia Tech’s identity as a land-grant university embedded in agricultural and rural heritage.
The Student Life Village would offer options for students of every class year to live on campus. It would balance space efficiency and affordability with privacy and age-appropriate living situations. In addition to enrichment spaces within the residence halls, shared enrichment spaces in amenity buildings could be used for activities open to the entire Virginia Tech community. The plan includes flexible spaces that integrate the university’s educational, social, and developmental missions into the residential environment.
Dining facilities would be a mix of commercial franchises and unique-serving venues to give students a wide range of options. This builds on the success of existing “destination concept” dining facilities on the Blacksburg campus.
The Transit Plaza at the village’s “gateway” is an important feature of the plan. Integrating the village into the existing transit network would be critical to connecting its residents to daily academic and student-life activities. This also would allow the village to be a destination for the entire campus community.
The proposed Student Life Village will incorporate universal design principles where appropriate.
Because the Student Life Village proposal would include significant capital investment, three phases are imagined for the project, each to be fully functional before the next is started. It would provide new housing in the near term that allows existing housing to be renovated on a rolling basis without affecting the overall campus housing supply.
Further study and planning is needed to determine construction costs and timelines for this proposed project. Flexibility is inherent in this approach to take advantage of cost-saving materials, innovative building techniques, and unforeseen opportunities. Changing student preferences and higher education benchmarks and best practices will be considered as the project moves through each phase.
Work on the plan for the Student Life Village began last fall. Its development included work sessions with three Virginia Tech advisory groups consisting of interdisciplinary leaders from across the university. The Student Life Village charrette, a two-day event held in October, was a collaborative discussion surrounding concept alternatives for the project. It engaged all Student Life Village advisory groups, the Town of Blacksburg, as well as members of the Virginia Tech student, faculty, and staff communities. Student feedback forums were also held.