Colleges and universities across the nation have spent the last decade developing appealing housing for juniors and seniors – apartment and suite style units with amenities galore, meant to compete with the allure of off-campus options. UNC Wilmington’s new Student Housing Village is representative of a key shift taking place in the student housing market to create student life facilities geared at setting freshmen and sophomore students up for academic success. Prospective students and their parents are increasingly expecting a high quality residential experience beginning with freshman move-in, and the ability to showcase exceptional freshman and sophomore housing is a growing recruiting advantage.

The new Student Housing Village will transform the residential experience for freshmen and sophomores at UNC Wilmington through a nexus of design elements meant to foster community, academic success, and social engagement. When complete, the four buildings will house 1,800 students and create a vibrant new campus quad that emphasizes connectivity with the academic core, known as Chancellor’s Walk. Enhanced connectivity is central to the project’s success – in addition to activating the Southeast corner of campus, specific program spaces such as a student success center, classrooms, maker space, and large meeting room will draw students and faculty from across campus. The inclusion of these spaces aligns with the University’s goals for the academic experience by enabling students to immerse themselves in their studies, while providing accessible support in the form of career counseling at the student success center.

The unit styles vary between the four buildings, offering different arrangements for sophomores and freshmen. Buildings 1 and 2, intended primarily for sophomores, will feature semi-suite units and accommodate 770 students. Buildings 3 and 4 will house more than 1,000 students and are organized by “pods,” a layout that reinforces a strong sense of community for freshmen. Each pod accommodates roughly 32 students in traditional, double occupancy rooms and contains a spa bathroom core (shared but private facilities that are centrally located), as well as its own lounge. The pod design enables students to build deeper connections with each other and presents an opportunity to create a unique pod identity, promoting strong school spirit, social engagement, and retention.

The creation of a bustling “market street” atmosphere along the corridor to Chancellor’s Walk is a centerpiece of the design. Student rooms and gathering spaces will overlook this active outdoor environment, which will feature bistro tables, market lights, and mixed-use retail on the ground floor. Throughout the village, game rooms, lounges, kitchens, and laundry facilities provide students with ample opportunities to socialize, complementing the academic features and expanding learning beyond the classroom.

Being delivered via a public-private partnership, the successful design process for the Student Housing Village is a reflection of the close working relationship between the design team: Clark Nexsen, developer Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, and UNC Wilmington’s key stakeholders. Clark Nexsen has been a long-term design partner for UNC Wilmington, having designed the University’s last three housing projects for upperclassmen – Seahawk Village, Seahawk Landing, and Seahawk Crossing – in addition to the new Student Housing Village.