University of Lynchburg’s new residence hall will not be complete in time for students’ return to campus, school officials announced Tuesday. As a result, about 250 students will be moved temporarily into Liberty University housing.

Construction on the new UL residential housing has been ongoing since last summer.

“Completing a 90,000-square-foot residence hall in 14 months was an ambitious project,” Bryan Gentry, director of communications for UL, said Tuesday in a news release.

He said for most of the summer, the building was on schedule to house students as they moved back onto campus later this month but there have been some unexpected construction delays during the past few weeks.

“The building will be certified for occupancy soon, but we need a little additional time to address details so it is ready as a premier living space that meets students’ expectations from the day it opens,” he said.

The first day of classes for at the University of Lynchburg is Aug.29, but many students begin moving in as early as next week, Aaron Smith, vice president and dean for student development, said.

The goal was for the residence hall to be complete by Aug. 19 but due to severe thunderstorms during the past several weeks, Smith said construction was delayed both on the inside and the outside.

“We know this is a really big inconvenience to students and we understand that,” he said. “We are dedicated to making this experience a positive one for students.”

In response, the school has partnered with Liberty University to house about 250 students in a former hotel on Odd Fellows Road, owned by LU, called “the Annex.”

The annex has been used for housing LU students in the past.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. said the school has two annex properties on Odd Fellows Road, one has been converted into graduate and married student housing, while this annex building has not been used in two or three years as resident housing.

He said UL President Kenneth Garren approached him in May asking for potential help housing students should the new residence hall not be finished in time.

After that, Falwell said LU began fixing up the annex building in anticipation of incoming UL students.

Minor renovations were completed as well as new furniture moved in, he said, adding the building was inhabitable beforehand.

Falwell said 100 rooms were fixed up by the time UL called this summer to say construction was back on schedule and the annex was not needed.

A few weeks ago Falwell said he received another a final call from UL asking to use 100 rooms, along with an additional 40 rooms.

“It’s a nice place,” Falwell said. “The dining room is still in good condition and there is a nice lobby area for students to study and socialize.”

Falwell said there is no time restraint on how long UL can use the building for dorms and it is available as long as needed.

“We empathize with them,” he said. “We’ve been in the same situation as them and have found ways to improvise. It’s what Christians believe, to help others. It would be a shame to turn students away and we’re more than happy to help.”

Falwell said Garren has done a lot to build a good relationship with LU and said the two have become good friends. He added his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., attended Lynchburg College for two years.

Smith said it’s been a great collaboration between the two universities and he is thankful to Falwell for helping give students a place to live temporarily. Smith said although students will be apart from the main campus on Lakeside Drive, he wants them to feel like they are part of the community.

“When they come back we want them to feel excited about moving into a brand-new building,” he said.

UL will help students move into the residence hall when it is complete, he said.

Smith said UL will provide frequent transportation as well as security coverage at the annex facility. There is also a plan in place for dining services to provide meals and make internet available to students.

“We’re trying to make this as comfortable for students as we can,” he said.

The school communicated with students, parents and the campus community about the delay in an email Tuesday, Smith said.

UL began demolition of McWane Hall last summer to make way for the new residence hall. It will house students from the Westover Honors College. More than 200 students are enrolled in Lynchburg College’s honors program. Other students also will occupy the new residence hall, which has not yet been named. Gentry said furniture will be moved into the new residence hall next week and the school hopes to move students in by early September.

Construction costs for the $22 million building remain on budget despite the delay, Gentry said.

Reach Rachael Smith at (434) 385-5482.

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Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

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Born and raised in Lynchburg, I cover local businesses and nonprofits. Email me at: rsmith@newsadvance.com

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