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Coppin hopes to build new residence halls, auditorium

Coppin State University President Anthony Jenkins.

Coppin State University’s proposed facilities master plan includes visions for three new residence halls and a new auditorium, as well as a number of new or renovated student spaces, athletic facilities and outdoor areas — projects that will cost close to $600 million in total over the next 10 years.

The proposal, which outlines the university’s plans for new campus buildings, renovations to existing buildings, and other improvements to the campus’s infrastructure, was presented to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Committee on Finance during the committee’s Wednesday meeting.

The most expensive project included in Coppin’s facilities master plan is a new auditorium, which is slated to replace the school’s existing James Weldon Johnson Auditorium and is estimated to cost $103.8 million. Located at the entrance to the school along West North Avenue, the auditorium dates back to 1972. Replacing it with an updated facility “is a tremendous opportunity to completely transform Coppin’s image and identity along North Avenue,” the master plan reads.

(The master plan, which spans 10  years, does not specify when the university aims to begin construction, though it lists the replacement of the auditorium as a long-term goal.)

The university also hopes to build three new dormitory buildings, renovate existing dorms, and transform an existing academic building, the Grace Hill Jacobs building, into a living-learning center, adding a total of 1,729 beds across campus.

Some of the regents questioned if there was enough demand for housing at Coppin to fill those spaces, especially as the average age of college students is continuing to shift older. According to the university’s website, Coppin had about 2,100 students enrolled in the 2021-2022 academic year, and while the number of incoming students is increasing, according to Anthony Jenkins, Coppin’s president, retention is a challenge for the school.

Still, Jenkins responded that the university, one of Baltimore’s two historically Black colleges, seems to be resisting those trends, with most of its students preferring to live on campus. Many of the students Coppin serves come from lower-income backgrounds, and, in some cases, Coppin’s student housing is preferable to wherever they live.

“For our in-state students, our Baltimore residents, they are electing to live on campus for multiple reasons,” he said. “The facilities that we provide could be better than where they are currently living now. We provide more stability than some of them may have now, whether that be through Wi-Fi connections, whether that be through meals, whether that be through privacy.”

He also said he would be interested in potentially implementing a requirement for Coppin students to live on campus for their first two years at the university, once the necessary accommodations have been built.

Other projects outlined in the facilities masterplan include:

  • renovating the college’s dining hall, the Talon Center, and the J. Millard Tawes Center, which contains the school’s bookstore, as well as student lounges, offices and meeting space;
  • replacing the Miles W. Connor Administration Building;
  • constructing a recreation and wellness center near the Talon Center;
  • adding about 3,000 new seats and a press box to Coppin’s stadium;
  • building a baseball stadium on campus;
  • renovating the Moore Library consolidating parking lots across campus into parking garages;
  • relocating Coppin Academy, the high school on Coppin’s campus, to the southern part of campus to help solve congestion issues;
  • improving the campus’s outdoor green space;
  • providing minor updates to the school’s Physical Education Complex, which is still relatively new, having been built in 2010.

These changes aim to address some a number of problems the master planning team identified with Coppin’s campus, such as a lack of student life hubs and the poor condition of some of the campus’ oldest buildings.

“When our student union was built at Coppin, the Beatles had not even invaded America,” Jenkins explained to the regents.

The plan also outlines steps Coppin will take to reduce its carbon footprint and improve sustainability; all construction projects will incorporate LEED standards, aim to preserve green space and limit the net gain of impervious surface.

The plan was developed over the course of a year, incorporating the feedback of the campus community and university leaders. The design team on the project included Moody Nolan, Kittelson & Associates, WFT Engineering, Site Resources, Forella Group, and Ayers Saint Gross, which led the team.

At its next meeting, the finance committee will choose whether to recommend that the full Board of Regents approve Coppin’s facilities masterplan. (Projects are not automatically approved if the master plan is approved; the projects and their funding must go through standard capital and operating budget processes.)