University of Delaware


Laird Campus Housing Advisory Services

The University of Delaware engaged the advisory services of Brailsford & Dunlavey in the winter of 2016 to identify and evaluate opportunities to reposition housing assets on the university’s Laird Campus—a residential campus that plays a critical role in accommodating student demand for on-campus housing. Maintaining its role as a residential campus was critical to supporting the university’s strategic growth plans.

B&D’s engagement was driven by the university’s need to address significant deferred maintenance issues with the Laird Campus’ Christiana Towers which were built in 1972, had 1,902 beds, and held the campus’ only apartment-style units. The university needed to address the Towers’ maintenance issues through either costly and substantial renovations or development of a total replacement facility. Since the Towers issue was among a number of other high priority projects identified by the university for an upcoming bond issue, B&D was retained not only to evaluate the Towers’ redevelopment opportunities but to advise the university on the feasibility of financing its projects through a public-private partnership.

In addressing the feasibility of adding residence halls and their supporting facilities to Laird, B&D prioritized the university’s strategic housing drivers and identified the most advantageous funding strategies for any resulting plan. The primary objective of the planning framework developed by B&D in conjunction with the key university leaders was to ensure that sufficient inventory was available to support the personal and academic development of all first- and second-year students, and any upper division students who wanted to live on campus. Elements of B&D’s planning process consisted of key stakeholder interviews, a student demographic analysis, an off-campus and competitive context study, and a cost estimate / financial analysis.

After synthesizing its analyses, B&D recommended the university self-finance the immediate replacement bed needs of the Towers through baseline renovation or demolition and construction of a new residence hall on one of two suggested sites. Longer term, B&D advised that the university undertake a larger, more strategic planning effort to redevelop the entire Laird Campus, which would present an excellent opportunity to leverage the resources and expertise of the private sector, redefine Laird, and enhance its overall desirability for students. B&D’s analyses also concluded that an undertaking of this magnitude could be executed successfully through a public-private partnership, thereby enabling the university to continue allocating its resources to other institutional priorities.