Ohio Wesleyan University will have two more student homes open this fall.
Construction is under way for both the new Honors House and the third of four planned duplex-style small living units, or SLUplexes.
OWU received an anonymous $2 million donation to build the new Honors House at 81 Oak Hill Ave. The new 7,123-square-foot building will accommodate 27 students. The current Honors House at 123 Oak Hill Ave. housed 11 students.
“The university is making a concerted effort to enhance the residential campus experience for our students, which includes renovating and, in some cases, replacing student housing,” said Cole Hatcher, OWU’s director of media and community relations.
Delaware City Council approved the final development plans for the Honors House in February, along with plans for the third SLUplex on the north side of Rowland between South Liberty and South Washington streets.
The Honors House is a permanent themed-house. It offers members of the OWU Honors program the opportunity to live together. The Honors House is one of four themed housing options on campus.
SLUs are intentional communities of students who share an avid interest, want to explore it more deeply, and desire to educate the campus about it. To reside in a SLU, a student must be at least a sophomore and reapply annually. OWU has seven such communities with four of them housed in two of the completed new SLUplexes that each can house up to 24 students.
Council approved the preliminary development plans for four new SLUplexes with construction of the first one in August 2015. The first three units each cost about $1.5 million and were funded by donors from OWU’s “Connect Today, Create Tomorrow” campaign.
The two completed SLUplexes were both 6,103 square feet.
OWU alumnus Doug Dittrick donated the funds for the first unit to replace an existing house at 118 Rowland Ave. at the northeast corner with South Liberty Street. The Dittrick House is home to the Interfaith House and the Sexuality and Gender Equality House.
The second SLUplex was approved last year to replace existing houses at 86 and 94 Rowland Ave. at the northwest corner with South Washington Street and is home to the houses of Peace and Justice and of Linguistic Diversity.
James and Janet Dicke, members of OWU’s President’s Circle of donors, provided the funds to construct SLUplex No. 3. Named after James’ parents, the 5,763-square-foot Jim and Eilleen Dicke House is located between the two completed SLUplexes. It will be the home of the House of Spiritual Athletes and the Tree House.
Funding is not yet secured for the fourth SLUplex. OWU and city officials plan to change the location for the fourth unit to be north of the first SLUplex along South Liberty Street because a private easement would not allow all four of them on Rowland Avenue. But officials determined an originally proposed detention basin for that area was no longer needed based on more detailed storm water information.
The university’s remaining SLU, the Citizens of the World House, will remain on Oak Hill Avenue.
After the fourth SLUplex is completed, city and university officials will look at the vacation of Rowland Avenue to extend OWU’s JAYwalk concept.
The SLUplexes and the Honors House are the first wave of new student housing at OWU in about 50 years. Late last year, OWU released its strategic plan to increase enrollment to 2,020 students by 2020. The university’s enrollment has fluctuated over the decades with the low at 1,387 in 1985.
Enrollment is now 1,650, but the campus can accommodate 40 percent more at about 2,400 students.
“But enrollment aside, in addition to strong academics, today’s prospective students and families have expectations for facilities that we want to ensure we meet,” Hatcher said.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.