Villanova University | Villanova, Pennsylvania
Villanova University’s campus has traditionally been concentrated on the north side of Lancaster Avenue, an important regional thoroughfare. As the university began considering how to implement a recent campus plan in a way that would strengthen its community, while communicating a strong brand identity consistent with its values and history, it became clear that the south side of Lancaster Avenue, a large surface parking lot, would offer opportunities to achieve these goals.
The university engaged VMA as architect of record, in association with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, to evaluate the site’s potential. Maintaining and emphasizing views of the church emerged as a guiding principle. Creative solutions for maximizing the available space led to a conceptual district plan that won the approval of university leadership. VMA worked with the university and the rest of the design team over several years to engage community members and local authorities, evolving the plan based on their feedback in a way that enhanced the overall design response. The process involved community meetings, creation of an overlay district, and conditional use hearings. Additional approvals included land development, grading plan, design review, shade tree replacement and buffering, NPDES permit, and construction permitting. We also coordinated reviews by Radnor Township, Delaware County Utility Providers, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and SEPTA, the regional public transport provider.
The keystone of the plan was a new 1,100-bed student housing development, which would increase university housing stock by 25 percent and feature ground floor retail to activate the streetscape. A pedestrian bridge crossing Lancaster Avenue would connect the student housing and an adjacent public transportation station with the rest of campus. A new professional-grade performing arts center, boasting multiple venues, would be situated at a prominent intersection. A new garage behind the performing arts center would alleviate the parking that would be lost through the development of the site.