David Blackwell Hall, a new campus residence hall, opened on Durant Avenue across from the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union on July 21, giving priority to freshman admits.
Named after the university’s first tenured Black professor, Blackwell Hall is 185,000 square feet and can house 777 students in its 412 rooms.
Tenants have access to several amenities: lounge areas, study rooms, presentation rooms, an academic success center with computer and printers, gaming rooms, a fitness center and two exterior patio areas, according to construction manager Clark Schaefer from American Campus Communities.
“All the amenities are shared by everyone equally,” Schaefer said. “Every level has the same number of studies, bathrooms, laundry facilities. … This helps to provide a balance for a student’s self-care, studying and social life.”
Tenants will have the options of living on all-gender or single-gender floors with six gender-neutral bathrooms each, according to Schaefer. The floors will also have four washer and dryer machines and six bathrooms each, with three showers and three toilets in each bathroom.
Although there is no dining hall located inside Blackwell, meal plans are purchased with rooms and can be used at nearby dining facilities, such as Café 3, Schaefer said.
“We intend for the amenities and spaces (ex. Study spaces) for use by Blackwell residents,” said campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff in an email. “Most spaces have controlled access, so residents have to “key in” for access.”
Blackwell Hall will also be shared by Stiles Hall, which houses a program that helps low-income youth connect with UC Berkeley students, and two retail spaces have yet to be filled, according to Schaefer.
Former chancellor Nicholas Dirks charged the Housing Master Plan Task Force in June 2016 with addressing student needs for accessible housing close to campus, said campus spokesperson Ellen Topp in an email.
“Blackwell Hall’s addition of some 700 new beds is a key part of the Chancellor’s plan to add 7500 new beds to campus housing over the next ten years—an important step forward on the campus commitment to expanding access to safe, affordable and convenient housing for Berkeley’s students,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an email.
In the short term, campus housing officials are experimenting with signing lease agreements with different apartment complexes, such as New Sequoia Apartments and Garden Village. Topp said in an email that these master lease agreements are projected to expand campus inventory by more than 665 beds by 2023.
In terms of alleviating the housing crisis, the establishment of Blackwell Hall is a “very tiny step” in the right direction, said ASUC Housing Commission chair Helen Veazey.
“The 10 percent of our students facing housing insecurity won’t change unless we make (new housing) more affordable for those students,” Veazey said.