Miracle on Monroe Street: Livingstone College reimagines student life through residential renovations

Published 12:03 am Thursday, July 20, 2023

SALISBURY — Renovations for multiple Livingstone College residence halls announced in February are officially underway.

Dancy Hall, an all-male dorm on campus, and Harris Hall, an all-female dorm, are at the center of the $7 million project.

“I chose two, one women’s residence hall and one men’s residence hall, so I have equity,” Livingstone College President Dr. Anthony Davis Jr. said on Tuesday.

The residence halls, which are near the campus center, have not seen upgrades in years.

“These buildings are about 50 years old,” Davis said. “Bishop Kenneth Monroe (vice chair of the Livingstone Board of Trustees) smiled when we said we were renovating Dancy. He said he was one of the first young men to move into Dancy.”

Monroe graduated in 1974.

The renovations involve “total facelifts” of the dorms.

“Our architect said that the building had good structure, but what they are going to do is take the shell and totally remodel this facility and that we won’t recognize it when it’s done,” Davis said. “We have gutted every single room. They are remodeling the bathrooms, and a new feature that both of these residence halls will have … is an elevator.”

The rooms will still have window units, but common areas will feature central air.

“We are trying to make our students more comfortable,” Davis said. “It’s long overdue.”

With unforeseen construction delays always possible, Davis said they were taking steps to protect students from holdups.

“So that we can protect ourselves and insulate ourselves against change orders and problems with construction, we went ahead and are renovating another 120 rooms at (the Livingstone College Hotel on Jake Alexander Boulevard South),” Davis said. “Students who would normally be here will have rooms over (there), so we won’t have any students displaced during the regular renovations.

“If we don’t finish it on schedule, the genius of it is that we have the capacity to move our students and not displace them by having them at the hotel.”

A shuttle runs from the hotel location to campus, but Davis said that since many of those students are upper-level students with permits to park on campus, many of them can drive themselves.

According to Davis, each of the campus-based dormitories under construction would use approximately $3 million in funding.

“We are pumping another $1 million into the hotel,” Davis said.

While about half of the funding came from budget appropriations, the remainder has been collected through fundraising measures.

“My vision was to make students the first priority,” Davis said. “I wanted to make sure that central to student life is a comfortable living space, so we reappropriated $3 million.

“Then, I went out and found the capital. When you are a new president, you have to treat your campus like a tech start-up. You need people who are angel investors who invest in the vision and what you are doing. Since I made those announcements (in February), I have been very aggressive with fundraising.”

At the Founder’s Day ceremony in February, Davis highlighted some donors, including Mondale Robinson, a 2011 Livingstone College graduate and Enfield mayor, who pledged $60,000 per year over the next 10 years, and Dr. Laticia Godette, owner of Ottendorf Laboratories, who presented the college with a check for $50,000, as part of an ongoing pledge.

“Failing infrastructure has plagued the 144-year-old historic Black college with students often venting their frustrations on social media,” a February release said.

During the ceremony, Davis referenced a social media comment from an individual that said the college should have closed a long time ago.

“Initially, I was bothered,” Davis said at the time. “But I realized that of all that was said, that was most factual. This institution should have been closed a long time ago, and would have been closed a long time ago, if not for two words — but God.”

According to Davis, the current project is just the beginning. It’s phase one of what the college is calling the “Miracle on Monroe Street: Livingstone College Reimagined.”

The second phase will revamp more dorms and a building near campus that has long been unused.

“If my capital investment and my ability to secure capital is going to work according to plan, we will move from these two buildings to two more residence halls and hopefully deliver renovations that this community has been waiting on for more than 20 years — the Duncan Education Building or Monroe Street School,” Davis said. “We are going to totally refurbish that building and deploy it for campus use.”

Davis said it could be used for classrooms.

“The college has a couple of innovative programs we want to bring online, and as we reimagine Livingstone College, we are looking at our growth and what makes sense,” Davis said. “As we embark upon these two projects and this Miracle on Monroe Street, my vision is that the college is paying it forward.”

While still a way out, Davis offered a glimpse into phase three.

“My vision is to create one big building that will house the student union, cafeteria, health and wellness center and connect it to the gymnasium,” Davis said.

With an optimistic outlook for the upcoming school year, the Livingstone College president wants to continue enhancing campus life for students.

“All of our predictive models indicated that this is going to be a good year for Livingstone College,” Davis said. “After the pandemic, we had two years of low freshman enrollment. If you take that trajectory, the second-and third-year enrollment may be low, but if we have a large first-year class and retain the students we anticipate to retain, Livingstone College will be back to pre-pandemic numbers this academic semester. Our goal is to get back to about 1,000 students on campus in person.”

Anyone who wishes to invest in the Miracle on Monroe Street project can do so.

“We accept all donations,” Davis said. “Send it to Livingstone College, 701 West Monroe Street, Salisbury, North Carolina. Put in the comment section, ‘capital improvements,’ and send it to the office of the president.”