Lakeland University received a $35.4 million fixed-rate low interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development division that will finance the largest investment in in the institution’s 158-year history.
Lakeland will use $26 million to construct two new residence halls to serve freshmen and sophomores, a water tower and related infrastructure. The remaining $9.4 million will be used to refinance the university’s existing long-term debt.
The details of the loan agreement will need to be approved next week by the school’s board of trustees.
The two identical residence halls will be located on the area south of the Younger Family Campus Center on the sites currently occupied by the decades-old Grosshuesch and Muehlmeier Halls, which will both be demolished.
Lakeland estimates the first new residence hall will be open for the fall of 2022 and the second for the fall of 2023. These two new halls will provide Lakeland with 396 beds, compared to 291 beds available in the four halls they will replace — A.M. Krueger, Muehlmeier, Friedli and Hofer. Hofer will also be demolished. The future of A.M. Krueger is to be determined.
“In light of the uneasiness we are all feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a transformational investment that is the best possible news for Lakeland,” said LU President David Black.
“This will be Lakeland’s single-most comprehensive project and physical investment in a main campus that was founded in 1862. And, coupled with the recent multimillion-dollar renovations of the Younger Family Campus Center and Taylor Field and the advent of our Cooperative Education program, this investment will position Lakeland for future growth for decades to come,” he added.
Black noted that Lakeland’s current freshmen and sophomore residence halls are approximately half a century old and are in need of significant deferred maintenance.
The USDA funds, provided through the Community Facilities Direct Loan program, are designed to develop essential community facilities and foster economic growth and development in rural communities across the country.
Community leaders wrote letters of support during the USDA application process in support of the project and of Lakeland’s importance as an economic driver to the region.