Mason’s Northeast Sector: Soon, a New Neighborhood

Posted: August 29, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Laura Jeffrey

With the Aug. 29 groundbreaking at the Fairfax Campus, George Mason has officially launched the biggest construction project in the university’s history. When the project is completed, the result will not simply be more buildings. “I am truly excited about what this project will bring to improving Mason life,” says President Alan Merten.

“It’s an entire new neighborhood we’re constructing,” explains Paul Barkett, director of housing and residence life.

The $75 million, 450,000-square-foot project is shown on the architect’s drawings as the Northeast Sector Development Plan. It is comprised of seven new buildings that will offer the vitality, energy and convenience of an urban neighborhood. Mixing housing for more than 1,000 students with retail shops, restaurants, a new dining hall and a fitness center, among other spaces, the neighborhood will be linked by a pedestrian mall.

Housing VII
A view of part of the huge housing project planned for the northeast sector of the Fairfax Campus.

The five buildings that incorporate student housing will be five or six stories tall. The buildings have been designed so that typically, housing is on the upper levels while the ground levels include retail spaces such as shops, a coffee house and convenience store, a pizza and pasta restaurant, and office space.

The sixth building in Mason’s new neighborhood is planned as a two-story fitness center featuring weight and workout rooms and indoor basketball and racquetball courts. The seventh building, also two stories tall, will house the new resident dining facility. The plan is to offer exhibition-style cooking similar to what is offered at Wegmans, the upscale, New York-based grocery store that recently opened locations in Sterling and Fairfax. (When the new dining facility opens, Ciao Hall will be renovated as a one-stop shop for various student services. A second dining facility is slated to open on campus by 2010.)

Courtyard of Housing VII
A view of the courtyard planned for the new housing project.

The housing in the Northeast Sector Development Plan has been designated for second- and third-year students, says Chris Chisler, director of University Services. By the fall of 2007, housing will be ready for approximately 350 students. An additional 200 beds are scheduled to be completed by spring 2008. This housing will be primarily suite-style, with groups of four to six students sharing a small living area and one or two bathrooms. The remaining 460 beds, styled as apartments and efficiencies, are expected to be completed by fall 2008.

While the mammoth construction project is officially under way, it will be several more months before the campus community sees any actual buildings. In the meantime, there will be disruptions with parking, walking and driving. The Facilities staff is working with contractors to provide alternate parking, pedestrian walkways and vehicular routes. “I request your patience and support during the long construction period ahead,” Merten wrote in an open letter to Mason’s faculty, staff and students.

Stephen Khovananth of J3 Associates in Alexandria is managing the design-build project for Mason. The design-build contractor for the Northeast Sector Development Plan is Dustin Construction of Gaithersburg, Md. Dustin selected Hanbury, Evans, Wright, Vlattas + Company of Norfolk to design the project. For more information about the project, click here.

Posted Aug. 29, 2005

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