Claflin Commons: New student housing facility on Goff Avenue to open soon

Sep 01, 2014
By DIONNE GLEATON
The Times and Democrat Staff Writer

A 64,000-square-foot residential living complex — touted as a new gateway to Claflin University from Goff Avenue — has essentially been completed, with only a few glitches to be worked out before students move in, the university’s president says.

Claflin Commons, which will house 200 students, features high ceilings, open gathering spaces, a seminar room for student meetings and a fitness center in keeping with the university’s campus-wide wellness initiative.

Claflin Commons Construction“We feel very good about the status of construction. I think we’re within a few weeks of opening,” said Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, Claflin president. “We have not set a specific opening date yet, but we know it will be in September. We could be looking at a date around mid-September at this point.”

“We are just going through the punch list to see what those things that need to be corrected are,” Tisdale said. “The furniture is pretty much already in the building, and we’re now setting the HVAC systems and checking the elevators to make sure all is well with that.”

He added, “We’re now moving outside doing the site work, including the sidewalks. Behind the building there’s an extended plaza and network of walkways and the like that are being completed as well.”

The facility’s innovative design and comfort will enhance students’ living and learning experiences, university officials say. The facility is comprised of two three-story wings, one housing 100 men and the other 100 women.

“Claflin Commons is consistent with the long-range plan developed for the university and speaks to the vision for Claflin. We want our students to experience the very best, and this new student residential complex offers them a state-of-the-art facility in which to live, study and develop into visionary leaders,” Tisdale said.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Claflin Commons, which is the culmination of several years of hard work and dedication by a number of campus and community individuals.”

Tisdale said while the facility does not yet have a specific numerical street address on Goff Avenue, one will soon be assigned to it.

“We’re expecting 200 students to make this place their home, and those students are already here. We have them accommodated in temporary situations until we give the signal,” he said. “We will then ... help them relocate to their new home in the Commons.”

The complex is arranged in suites accommodating either four or two students, Tisdale noted.

“If you’re in a two-bedroom suite, you have your own private room and, of course, there’s a sitting area and a bathroom and small kitchen area. And if you’re in a four-room suite, each student has his or her own bedroom, and there are two bathrooms ... to accommodate the students,” he said.

He said the correction of all remaining issues is important.

“We don’t want the students to (have to) move in to tell us about the little glitches. We want to get the little glitches out of the way,” Tisdale said. “We don’t want any issue regarding the readiness of the buildings. In terms of the outside, we want it to be safe and ready in every aspect.”

According to university officials, each wing of the facility will have card-access systems only residents can access, an elevator, a laundry room, a computer lab and informal study areas. These will be connected by a shared student commons area that will include the main building entrance and the fitness center. Energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are expected to reduce electricity consumption, and the use of regional and recycled materials in the building’s construction will help conserve natural resources.

Every aspect of the building — from bricks to the interior design — has been carefully considered as part of the university’s master plan in making the campus more pedestrian friendly and student centered.

“We’re in the process of expanding parking along Goff Avenue. We haven’t had a chance to pave yet, but all of that expanding parking lot will be eventually paved along Goff Avenue,” Tisdale said. “As far as the expanded area, the priority will go first to students and then, of course, faculty and staff will also use it.”

The Clalfin president said the safety and security of the facility and the surrounding area is being worked on to improve the overall quality of life for students and the surrounding community.

“We even asked the city and the Department of Transportation for approval to remove some of the parking space to give better sight and visibility to persons parking and driving in and out on Goff Avenue,” Tisdale said. “We also asked for speed bumps to make certain that the traffic respects ... that there are a lot of pedestrians moving about on Goff Avenue.”

Crosswalks marked by panther paws, a nod to the university’s Panther mascot, will be an additional safety feature for the area, he said. The parking spaces and crosswalks have both received approval from Orangeburg City Council.

“These will be done in concert with the construction of the building and final approval from the Department of Transportation as to exactly where the speed bumps will be,” Tisdale said. “We’re working in concert with DOT in getting everything else in place.”

Dr. Leroy Durant, vice president for student development and services, said, “The Commons will serve as a living and learning community. The students are excited. They’ve seen the construction progressing and are eager to see the finished product.”

Tijuana Hudson, vice president for fiscal affairs, said approximately 900 students will be housed in the area that includes Claflin Commons and the Student Residential Center.

“We are very pleased with what we have been able to do,” she said. “I am confident our students will enjoy all that we have done to enhance their experience at Claflin University.”

An open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony for Claflin Commons are being planned and will be announced soon.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter @DionneTandD. Claflin Commons photo by Christopher Huff/T&D. Visit www.TheTandD.com for more Orangeburg news.

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