Marshall University’s $40M Expansion Thunders Ahead

Tue September 23, 2003 - Northeast Edition
James E. Casto

Enrollment at Marshall University in Huntington, WV, is soaring. And so the school is spending $40 million on four new residence halls, a new dining facility and a parking garage.

The new suite-style residence halls — a far cry from the college “dorms” of yesteryear — were completed in time to be occupied by students arriving on campus for the current fall semester. The adjacent dining facility is slated for completion in December. They join a new 1,000-space parking garage that opened last year — all necessitated by Marshall’s record-high enrollment.

Although the final enrollment figure for the current semester isn’t yet available, Dave Wellman, Marshall’s director of communications, said indications are that it will top last fall’s record high of 16,551 students.

The new residence halls are the first campus housing built at Marshall since1968.

Ed Grose, Marshall’s senior vice president of operations, suspects the university lost students in the past because it didn’t have enough housing.

“Every summer we filled up our dorms quickly, and there were still lots and lots of students who wanted to come to Marshall and their parents wanted them to come,” Grose said. “We didn’t have the housing. So, we lost students.”

Each of the four new residence halls houses 125 students in suite-style accommodations. There are three designs: four single-occupancy rooms with a bathroom and a living area, two double-occupancy rooms with a living area and one bathroom, and four double-occupancy rooms with a living area and two bathrooms.

The new buildings are a radical departure from Marshall’s other dorms, where all the students on a floor share bathrooms and a common lounge.

The new residence halls are distinctly “high tech.” Each room is wired for Internet access and cable television but has no traditional telephone lines. Instead, each of the 500 students has been issued a cell phone. And, like landlines for phones, room keys also are a thing of the past. Instead, students access their suites with a computer programmable card, much like those used by hotels.

The adjacent dining facility, now nearing completion, will include a fitness center and conference rooms. The rear wall of the building is mostly glass, affording an unobstructed view of the park-like setting of the residence halls.

General contractor for the new residence halls and dining facility is the Neighborgall Construction Co., of Huntington, a family-owned business that traces its roots to the 1920s. (see sidebar)

J&H Reinforcing and Structural Erectors Inc., of Portsmouth, OH, erected the steel for the job. Dixon Electrical Systems and Contracting Inc., of Huntington, was electrical subcontractor. And Dougherty Co. Inc., of Charleston, WV, was plumbing/HVAC subcontractor.

Dougherty used two Liebherr cranes to install the HVAC at the project — a 150-ton (135 t) at the residence halls and a 175-ton (157.5 t) at the dining facility. Maxim Crane of Nitro, WV, provided both cranes.

Parking problems at Marshall, long a source of complaint by students and faculty alike, were eased last year with the opening of an $8.8-million parking garage. The six-level structure is connected to the campus by a pedestrian bridge over busy Third Avenue, which carries U.S. 60 past the Marshall campus and into downtown Huntington.

BBL Carlton, of Charleston, was lead contractor for the garage.