University Approves Darden Master Plan Refresh, Putting Faculty and Student Needs at Forefront
By David Buie-Moltz
Last week, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved a refreshed master plan for the Darden School of Business in Charlottesville — including the development of a centrally located academic innovation hub connecting existing Darden buildings, renovations to faculty and student learning spaces, Grounds enhancements to promote accessibility and wellness, and development of residential housing to deliver on Darden’s world-class residential MBA experience fully.
“This master plan and the individual projects within will support the School’s strategy, future growth and aspirations for fulfilling our mission,” said Darden Dean Scott Beardsley. “Modernizing our aging facilities will help us remain competitive with our peers by enhancing faculty research and improving the overall student and alumni experience.”
In the Board’s Buildings & Grounds Committee session, Architect for the University Alice Raucher outlined the architectural vision for Darden to the UVA Board of Visitors. The Darden master plan includes:
- Improvements to the north and south faculty buildings to support Darden’s faculty in their research and teaching excellence;
- Enhancements to the academic experience, including a centrally located academic innovation “hub” and technology spaces, to advance entrepreneurship, collaboration, connectivity, programs and student success. This will also create new spaces for the Batten Institute to fulfill its mission and replaces the functionality of Sponsors Hall and the iLab, which were demolished to make way for the new Darden hotel;
- Innovative, proximate, high-quality residential housing to enhance Darden’s world-class MBA experience and offer a more inclusive and integrated living and learning environment;
- Enhancements to the Grounds through quads, landscaping, pedestrian bridges and open green spaces that expand outdoor learning options, improve North Grounds and Ivy Gardens connectivity, and enhance safety and accessibility for students; and
- An innovative parking deck topped with athletic fields to accommodate increased demand, create flexibility for future growth and expand recreation facilities for student health and wellness.
It was discussed that certain of the proposed enhancements had been intended in the original design for Darden in the late 1990s, but had been value managed out at the time. During the meeting, Darden Dean Scott Beardsley also addressed several questions from board members about the masterplan and its relationship to Darden’s strategy and programs — specifically noting the needs of the increased size of the student body, faculty and staff, the need for high-quality facilities within a highly-competitive business school landscape, and supporting the University’s efforts to address a structural housing shortage. Beardsley also expressed Darden’s commitment to prudent and responsible stewardship in the overall master plan.
In 2016, Darden engaged Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) to update its original design for the Goodwin Family Grounds — which opened in 1998 — and develop a master plan to maximize strategic facility enablement. Since 2016, Darden has embarked on several enabling projects, including a new boutique hotel — on track for a spring 2023 opening — C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall, classroom improvements, botanical gardens and an arboretum, and the North Grounds Mechanical/Utility Plant conversion. Collectively, this progress catalyzed a need to update the master plan to reflect and consider current realities.
Last year Darden reengaged RAMSA to refresh the master plan with input from many stakeholder groups around the Darden community. In April 2022, the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees unanimously endorsed the master plan refresh before it went to the UVA Board of Visitors.
Proposed Student Housing Project
In June, the Buildings and Grounds Committee accepted a proposal from the Darden School to add a student housing project to UVA’s Major Capital Plan.
The housing projects being studied include possible buildings around the Darden parking garage (“north”) and a second possible site (“south”) proximate to the North Grounds Recreation Center. Together, if built, they could accommodate up to over 400 students — over 50% of Darden’s residential MBA population, although the sites may also be phased. The project is expected to include high-quality accommodations for students and important amenity spaces that complement the overall living and learning spaces throughout the Darden Grounds. Darden expects to design the project to be financially responsible, provide reasonable market rates to students, and be attractive to potential donors and supporters. During the discussion with the Board of Visitors, Dean Beardsley highlighted that peer business schools — in particular Stanford, Harvard and Dartmouth (Tuck) — all have residential housing, which is a positive differentiator. He underlined that housing could be an outstanding long-term financial asset that — if prudently built — would significantly advance Darden’s ability to support faculty and student excellence. Dean Beardsley also supported the University’s recent Ivy Gardens Master Plan that would support many Darden students continuing to live at Ivy Gardens and close to the Darden Grounds.
The University’s annual capital planning process ensures that major capital projects, including the proposed Darden residential housing project, align with broader institutional priorities. The University updates its Capital Plan annually to add new projects, remove ones that are no longer a priority and prioritize others using established criteria.
Now that the Darden student housing project is approved for UVA’s Capital Plan, the Buildings and Grounds Committee must review and approve the concept, site, design guidelines, and schematic design. Additionally, as other individual projects within Darden’s broader master plan concept are designed, programmed, funded, and presented, the School and the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees are expected to advance capital plan recommendations to the UVA Board of Visitors for inclusion in the Major Capital Plan.
To help shape the implementation of the refreshed master plan, and residential housing in particular, Dean Beardsley is forming a working group of representatives from around Darden. The Board of Visitors and University leadership commended Darden on the quality and attractiveness of the architectural vision and wished the Darden School success in the fundraising, which will be significant. Darden is working on various naming options to support the master plan as part of its “Powered by Purpose” campaign.
“I’m grateful to these individuals for their voice and insight, and to the Darden School Foundation Board and University Board of Visitors for their support,” said Dean Beardsley. “Together, we will work to ensure the Darden Goodwin Family Grounds in Charlottesville remains one of the premier campuses among our peer business schools.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Associate Director, Editorial & Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia