RADFORD — Radford University President Brian Hemphill used his annual state of the university address on Friday to announce two substantial development projects .
Hemphill told those in attendance in the Bondurant Auditorium that the university has added a hotel project and riverfront development to its 2020-30 master plan that is set to be approved by the school’s board of visitors at its December meeting.
The multilevel hotel will be located at the intersection of Tyler Avenue and Calhoun Street and will feature a rooftop restaurant with a view overlooking the campus. The university is working on the project with the help of Fortune 500 Company JLL, a commercial real estate services firm, Hemphill said.
“The hotel will provide amenities not available at current area hotels and a proximity to campus that cannot be matched,” he said.
University spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs said the hotel should be completed by 2022-23 with an estimated cost of $20 million to $25 million. She said the project is a public-private partnership, and no state funds will be used.
The riverfront project has numerous planned components such as an amphitheater, a restaurant along the New River, a zip-line, a boardwalk and access to the river for experiential learning and outdoor recreation. Additionally, the university is planning a revamped bridge design, and a new traffic pattern will be constructed along University Drive.
“The river campus will drastically change the way students, faculty, staff and the community utilize our grounds and facilities,” Hemphill said.
The riverfront development will be completed in stages over the next five years, Scaggs said. The estimated cost is $10 million and is a public-private partnership with a “variety of fund sources being utilized.”
City Mayor David Horton, who also works at the university, said the projects will be financed by the school, so city residents won’t have the local burden of paying for the improvements. Additionally, the projects will generate additional taxes for the city.
“It’s other revenue that can go towards schools, roads, enhance business districts you name it. All of this is going to drive entertainment traffic to Radford. The riverfront development has been a priority for the city for decades. The nice part about this is it’s an addition to the city without taking anything away,” Horton said following Hemphill’s speech.
Hemphill also announced a new plan for the future core curriculum at the university. The REAL model was approved by the faculty senate last spring and the specifics were adopted in recent weeks. It will replace the general education model that is currently used for students in their first two years of college.
Criminal Justice professor Nicole Hendrix, who has led the REAL committee, said the new model focuses on four areas of knowledge from which the acronym was constructed : scientific and quantitative reasoning, humanistic or artistic expression, cultural or behavioral analysis and applied learning. She said students will have a clearer picture of what courses they need to take to complement their major or to complete minors and certificate programs.
“It allows them an opportunity to really focus their studies on their goals, whether those are career goals or educational goals but really a lot more flexibility for the student to take control of it,” she said.
The faculty senate is currently in the process of identifying an implementation date for the REAL model, Scaggs said.
“There is a proposed motion before the group, which includes implementation during the 2021-22 academic year,” she wrote in an email.
Hemphill, who is in his fourth year as president, referenced a new partnership between the university and New River Community College called a “Bridge to RU.” Students will live on campus but take classes at NRCC their first year before starting at RU in their second year. After year two, students will receive an associate’s degree from NRCC.
“The program will allow us to provide automatic admission to New River Community College students who apply to Radford University but for different reasons may not be ready for the academic rigor of a four-year institution,” he said.
Students will pay NRCC tuition and fee rates as they begin the program, while also paying room and board rates for Radford University, Scaggs said. Students will pay standard tuition rates once they start classes at the university. The program is slated to begin with the 2020-21 academic year.
The university currently has 11,870 students and offers 76 bachelor’s degrees, three associate’s programs, 27 master’s programs and six doctoral programs.