dr_sandra-t_thompson_web.jpgMIAMI GARDENS — After a year and a half of planning, Florida Memorial University (FMU), in a June 29 groundbreaking ceremony, unveiled the renderings for its new dormitory buildings.

Named the “Living and Learning Residence,” the four-building, 350-bedroom residency hall will be constructed on the land currently used for FMU’s tree farm.

The facility is scheduled to open in August 2011, according to Sandra T. Thompson, FMU’s interim president.

“It [the date] may be a little ambitious, but that’s what we are hoping,” Thompson said.

Located at 15800 NW 42nd Ave. in Miami Gardens, FMU is South Florida’s only historically black university.

The new, suite-style bedroom dormitories there will include private bathrooms, lounges, a media center, a computer room, fitness rooms and kitchens.

“And right now, these things are not available to our students,” said Barbara Edwards, executive assistant to FMU’s president.

The buildings, Edwards said, will house some of the older students as well as honor students, and even a few faculty members.

“It’s not just about learning, but a great living environment,” she said.

Currently, FMU has two male and two female dorms, and houses about 750 students, Thompson said.

Right now, there may be three or sometimes as many as four students to a room, “especially for the girls,” Thompson said. “And we are moving completely away from that style.”

There are no plans for co-ed dormitories.

For years, FMU has wanted to construct additional residency halls, Thompson said, adding that the move will allow the school to increase its number of students while at the same time provide facilities for students that are currently unavailable.

The project is financed by the HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) Capital Financing Program, Edwards said. The organization presented FMU with a $28 million check during the ceremony.

“We had to submit documentation; prove that we are financially stable,” Edwards said.

Of the $28 million that FMU received, $13 million is earmarked for the new residency halls. The $15 million balance will refinance the school’s previous bond issue, according to Tony Valentine, FMU’s vice president of business and fiscal affairs.

The goal of the capital financing program is to provide low-cost capital to finance improvements to the infrastructure of the nation’s HBCUs, according to its website.

Specifically, the program provides HBCUs with access to capital financing or refinancing for the repair, renovation and construction of classrooms, libraries, laboratories, dormitories, instructional equipment and research instrumentation.

“We will also update the buildings we have on campus now,” Thompson said.

Edwards described having the new buildings as “showing another level of advancement in terms of placing the university at a higher level of not only its attractiveness, but its ability to meet the needs of the students.”

The additional space the project provides, Edwards said, coupled with the updated housing and facilities “will make a major impact on student retention and the kinds of services that can be provided.”

She continued: “They [students] will be able to have lectures right in the building, and that speaks volumes about the university’s progression.”

Mary Williams, FMU’s vice president of student affairs, said she feels that the new buildings will “heighten the students’ level of engagement” because FMU is providing an atmosphere that says, ‘We value their living as well as learning experience.’”


Photo by Khary Bruyning. Sandra T. Thompson