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June, 2019

CUA to Break Ground for Opus Hall

By Catherine Lee


The new residence hall will sit just off John McCormack Road near Taylor Street.

For years, Catholic University’s Raymond A. DuFour (athletic) Center has stood alone at the northeast corner of campus, separated from other buildings by a stretch of undeveloped university land.

But by 2009, when Opus Hall — an approximately $25 million state-of-the-art residential facility — opens on campus, the athletic center will have a neighbor close by.

On Monday, March 12, CUA will kick off the construction project with a ceremonial groundbreaking for Opus Hall, which will be located near Flather Hall on the university’s main campus and parallel to John McCormack Road, just south of Taylor Street.

The seven-story building, with its proximity to other residence halls and the Eugene I. Kane Student Health and Fitness Center and the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, will become part of the new hub for student life at CUA.

“The new residence hall will be a state-of-the-art building that will stand out as environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing,” says Julie Englund, treasurer and vice president for finance and administration and chair of the committee for the building’s construction.

Englund’s sentiments are echoed by Susan Pervi, vice president for student life, who has responsibility for campus housing.

“With its gathering places inside and out, Opus Hall will give students a greater sense of place, a sense that this is their space, their community,” says Pervi.

The groundbreaking ceremony at 1 p.m. on March 12, on the grassy area near Flather, will kick off the project, the first major construction at CUA since the completion of the Pryzbyla Center in 2003.

Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., university president, will speak at the event. Special guests will include Neil J. Rauenhorst, a member of CUA’s Board of Trustees, and his wife Becky; other board members; James J. Lee, president and chief executive officer of OPUS East Construction Group of Rockville, Md., contractor for the project; and government and local community leaders.

The name Opus Hall recognizes the $3 million gift for the building project from Rauenhorst, a 1976 graduate of the university’s School of Architecture and Planning, and his wife. Rauenhorst is president of NJR Development Co. LLC, a real estate development company based in Tampa, Fla.

All members of the CUA community are invited to attend the groundbreaking.

Design to Reflect the Old and the New

Opus Hall will house 400 students on CUA's main campus.

The exterior of Opus Hall will mirror the collegiate Gothic style of one of CUA’s oldest buildings, Gibbons Hall, which dates back to 1912. Like Gibbons, Opus Hall will have a central tower and two wings. The building’s lower portion will be made of pre-cast concrete, which will give way to several floors of red brick topped off with buff-colored brick.

“With the new construction, we’ll have a residence hall on the main campus near Taylor Street that speaks to the architectural history of the original campus on Michigan Avenue,” says Carl Petchik, executive director of facilities operations and a member of the residence hall planning committee.

“The new palette of colors and building materials for Opus Hall relate to the existing palette of  Mullen Library and McMahon and Caldwell halls,” he added.

The architectural design of the building, which calls for some sections or bays of the building to be set forward and others to be set back, will give Opus Hall “articulation, a kind of three-dimensional bas relief quality,” notes Petchik.

A student living on the building’s top floor will be about 70 feet in the air, looking over Centennial Village and out at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

An outdoor patio outfitted with tables and chairs will run half the length of the building, along the wing that will be closest to Flather. A grassy area will extend beyond that.

In the tower, large windows on floors two through seven and an expansive stairwell will let lots of sunlight into the building. The tower windows will measure about 6 feet in height and 20 feet in length, running roughly waist high to the ceiling. 
Students will be able to take one of the three elevators in the tower or the stairwell, stopping, if they like, to read or chat while sitting in one of several window seats.

The first floor of the building will house a lobby and a living room that will share a gas fireplace, a laundry room and a “contemplative space” for small prayer groups and other quiet spiritual activities.

More Vibrant Student Life

Jonathan Sawyer, associate vice president and dean of students, notes that CUA students are excited about the building’s design, which responds to many of the suggestions they made as part of a survey conducted by the Office of Housing Services.

“I think students can see how Opus Hall will enhance the vibrancy of campus life by building community and supporting their spiritual growth,” says Sawyer.

Floors two through seven will each house 12 five-person suites, a room for a resident assistant and a large common area in the tower that will include a kitchen and a small dining area.

Opus Hall will comply fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Each floor will have a suite that is fully accommodated for persons with disabilities as well as an additional suite on each floor that easily could be adapted, if the need arises.

At night, the building’s tower will be “a beacon on campus,” illuminated by lighting at the entrance and at the top and by lights inside as students use the common areas located in the tower, says Petchik.

Opus Hall will be configured for wireless Internet throughout the building as well as cable TV and telephone service in each suite.

The new residence hall will have energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems that will enable it to become the first building on campus to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance “green” buildings.

Because of the increased energy-efficiency of Opus Hall, it will cost CUA less to run the new building than it does to run both Millennium North and Millennium South, which together house a total of 350 students, according to Petchik.

The wired, sunlit building, with all its amenities, will be a far cry from what Petchik remembers from his days as an undergraduate at CUA.

Petchik, who earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1966 (and two master’s degrees in the 1970s) recalls that, in the early ’60s, Ryan and Regan halls were the only residential facilities on the north end of campus and Centennial Village was a tennis court. As Petchik notes: “We’ve come a long way since then.”

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Last Revised 08-Mar-07 04:49 PM.