At 125 years old, Virginia State University is experiencing a massive growth spurt. As part of its plan to increase enrollment from 5,000 to 10,000 students, the school will continue expanding during the next 13 years. Plans include adding 19 new buildings, renovating eight of its current buildings and making 11 land improvements, such as new parking areas.
The expansion is part of a master plan, updated in 2006, to improve undergraduate and graduate academic programs and increase enrollment. The plan has already had an effect—the school's enrollment has increased from 3,700 students to 5,000 students since 1997.
Clementine Cone, vice president for administration and finance, says the changes are welcome. "The university had not completed a full plan since 1997, so we were overdue for a new comprehensive master plan," Cone says.
A new engineering building was dedicated in early December, and stadium renovations, including expanded seating and a larger press box, as well as the installation of a new NCAA soccer field, were scheduled to be finished later in December. A new residence hall is expected to be completed in early February.
The village of Ettrick, which surrounds the campus, will see changes as well. The university is buying several properties and working with the county's revitalization office to create a retail district targeted toward students. The 150-year-old "Humphrey Building," which once housed Humphrey's Electric, is slated for renovations to accommodate a pizza and sub shop and another business, perhaps an ice cream parlor or salon. A four-bedroom apartment on the second floor will be rented out, according to area developer R.L. Dunn, who owns the property.
Dunn, who first spoke with VSU students before buying the vacant, gutted property and plans to open the sub shop this April, says their promised support makes him confident. "The college kids are begging for something like this," he says.
Chesterfield County's revitalization director, Tom Jacobson, notes the need for retail space along Chesterfield Avenue, which will grow as the university expands. "Our vision is to provide a college-oriented commercial area by attracting developers to the area," he says.
Ashley Nichols contributed to this story.