Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Shovels primed for a residence hall that will ‘make people smile’

Nagel Hall, DU’s newest residence hall, took a key step forward last month with the selection of Gerald H. Phipps Inc. as general contractor for the nearly $40 million building.

Groundbreaking and the start of construction are expected this month, with completion slated for June 2008.

“It’s extraordinarily well-designed,” says Trustee Ralph Nagel, who with his wife, Trish, contributed $4 million to spearhead the project. “It’s truly a stunning building that incorporates the principles [of other DU structures] and advances them all.”

Nagel, a former architect and past chair of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, founded and operated Meridian Retirement Communities. He sold them in 2005 and currently is president of Top Rock, an investment company.

Trish Nagel is an attorney with Moye White. She and her husband are long-time activists in Colorado politics, having donated extensively to state and national Republican candidates, including Gov. Bill Owens.

Phipps has been a Colorado contracting company since 1952. The employee-owned company oversaw the construction of DU’s Olin Hall Science Building and the Evans Parking Structure in addition to Colorado landmarks such as Invesco Field at Mile High.

The 150,000-square-foot, five-story Nagel Hall will be a state-of-the-art “green” building with 369 beds, a food-court-style dining area with adjacent space for classes or special events, a game room, group study rooms, an outdoor dining plaza, and academic research space, offices and classrooms for the psychology department.

“This is a very solid deal for the institution,” says University Architect Mark Rodgers. “[The aim] is to make people smile when they go by it.”

Funding for the building comes from a variety of sources, including a $45.7 million, 30-year revenue bond issue that also helped pay for the Evans Parking Structure. The residence hall is being built on property previously occupied by Skyline and Pioneer halls, which were razed last year.

Nagel Hall will offer a variety of room arrangements, including jack-and-jill singles and doubles — arrangements that pair rooms with a shared bath — and four- and five-bedroom apartments. The dorm will have 212 beds for sophomores, 138 apartments for juniors and seniors and 19 beds for residential assistants and staff. The top two floors will be earmarked for upperclassmen as incentive to live on campus.

“We have some apartments for upperclassmen on campus, but … [they] are older and on the periphery,” says Patti Helton, associate provost for Campus Life. “These are going to be apartments in prime space.”

The residence hall also will offer students a “drop-by” food service that emphasizes early-morning and late-night options. Purveyors include Einstein Bros. Bagels; Salsa Rico, a burrito restaurant; and Pandini’s, a pizzeria that may stay open as late as midnight.

“It’s what students tell us they want and also what we’ve seen be successful on other campuses,” Helton says.

It’s also what DU officials learned from constructing Nelson Hall, a campus residence completed in 2002.

“This is a continuation of standards set by Nelson with what we hope are improvements,” Rodgers says.

Those improvements are elements that DU officials hope earn them a “silver” designation under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system for identifying environmentally friendly buildings. The LEED system provides guidelines for green buildings and awards labels depending on how well they meet design and construction criteria.

The Frank R. Ricketson law building at the Sturm School of Law is a “gold” designated building.

To achieve silver status, Nagel Hall will incorporate features such as an energy efficient heating-and-cooling system with individual or small-zone controls; operable windows; a copper roof; low water-use faucets on sinks and showerheads; dual-flush toilets that alter water flow as needed; and local and recycled materials.

“We expect to use the building for 100 years, so it makes more sense to buy systems with energy efficiency so we’re using less fossil fuel,” Rodgers says.

Perhaps as important, however, is housing students, some 2,000 of whom occupy University residences in the 2006–07 academic year. Half of those are first-year students and another 800–900 are sophomores, says Mike Furno, associate director of housing and residential education. About 100 are juniors and seniors and some 75 are graduate students.

An additional number of upperclassmen wish to live on campus but can’t find space, so Nagel Hall is intended to address the demand. Further, because the new dorm is to house sophomores, it will open space in the apartments for upperclassmen.

“Our hope is that everyone who wants to live on campus — and is a junior and senior — can,” Furno says.

Learn more: What makes a building “green”?

This article originally appeared in The Source, January 2007.

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