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2010 News Releases

Longwood officially opens Bridges at Lancer Park

September 16, 2010

Lancer Park Bridges Ribbon Cutting Ceremony From left: Alan Cook (Longwood Capital Planning & Construction), Farmville Town Manager Gerry Spates, Otis Brown (Longwood Real Estate Foundation), John Adams (rector of the Longwood Board of Visitors), Thomas Talley (English Construction), Gary Johnson (RK&K, the designers), SGA president Ben Brittain, Longwood President Patrick Finnegan, Eric Houghland (High Bridge Trail State Park), Ken Copeland (Longwood Real Estate Foundation) and Buddy Barron (Longwood Facilities Management).

Longwood University's main campus and a nearby complex of university-managed apartments and athletic fields on the north side of U.S. 460 (West Third Street) are now linked in a way that is safer, more direct and more visually appealing.

The Lancer Park Bridges consist of a pedestrian bridge spanning Third Street and, about 200 yards west, a vehicular bridge that crosses over a former railroad bed just before the new entrance into Lancer Park, home to 258 students and fields used by Campus Recreation. The bridges, which officially opened Sept. 9, are connected by a walkway on the north side of Third Street. Lancer Park, Longwood's first apartment community, is six-tenths of a mile from campus.

"Our students have embraced Lancer Park as a terrific residence - truly their 'home away from home,'" said President Patrick Finnegan before he and others cut a ribbon opening the bridges. "However, the challenge has been how to tie this wonderful residential and recreational option, what is really a new 'north' campus, to main campus and make sure our students feel connected.

"Through these two bridges, we have provided a solution. Not only have we provided a safe way for our students to travel back and forth, but we have also provided a welcoming party for those who want to travel to Lancer Park to socialize, study, play sports with their friends, or live. By adding these bridges, we open up this location to even more opportunities, including academic and research activity in the future."

Until the bridges were finished, the entrance to Lancer Park was atop a steep hill on Grace Street, reached only from Appomattox Street (between the Farmville Train Station and Buffalo Shook, a plant that manufactures wood-related products), which leads to Grace Street. The entrance from Grace Street has been closed, except for emergency vehicles.

"This project has already had a tremendous impact," said senior Ben Brittain, SGA president and a second-year Lancer Park resident. "I have seen more Lancer Park residents riding bikes and walking to and from campus than I have ever seen in my entire college career. Before, they had to trudge up 'Mount Everest.' Because of that hill, there were few bike-riders. This has literally bridged the gap between Lancer Park and main campus. Also, more students are using the athletic fields, including new students, and studies show that students who are more involved are more successful.

"This is much safer. Before, to get from Lancer Park to campus, you had to walk on two roads with no sidewalks, cross a four-lane road with cars and tractor-trailers traveling 40 miles per hour, and cross two more intersections before arriving on campus. Now, you can just stroll over that four-lane road."

Others who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Otis Brown, vice rector of the Longwood Board of Visitors and a member of the Longwood Real Estate Foundation, and Ken Copeland, executive director of the Longwood Real Estate Foundation.

"This represents the pulling together of the two campuses," Brown said. "These are bridges not just for students to walk across but a way in which the two campuses can come together."

Copeland said he "couldn't be more pleased with the outcome." More students, Lancer Park residents as well as non-residents, he said, are now using the Lancer Park ballfields, which opened in 2009 and include a softball field and an artificial surface, multi-purpose athletic field. The walkway between the two bridges, which roughly parallels Third Street, "ties them together in an aesthetic and efficient way," he said.

The new entrance into Lancer Park is from Third Street just east of the driveway for B&G Auto. The vehicular bridge, immediately in front of the entrance, spans a former Norfolk Southern Railway bed that is now part of High Bridge Trail State Park. The project would not have been possible had Norfolk Southern not deeded the land to the Commonwealth of Virginia in June 2007, part of 31 miles of rail that it donated for the "rails to trails" park. The two-lane bridge has a pedestrian sidewalk on the east side and a deceleration lane for west-bound traffic going from Third Street into Lancer Park.

The street into Lancer Park was named Cormier Drive by the Longwood Real Estate Foundation in May, which was approved by Farmville Town Council in June. The naming honors Longwood's recently retired president, Dr. Patricia Cormier.

On the Longwood side of Third Street, the pedestrian bridge empties onto Grove Street near Buffalo Street, providing a more direct route to and from campus. "It's a straight shot to campus from Grove Street," Copeland said. "We've taken a lot of twists and turns out of that walk."

The pedestrian bridge has a built-in handrail on both sides, is about 10 feet wide and at least four feet high on the sides, and is slightly taller in the middle than on the ends, due to the arch. To meet the Virginia Department of Transportation's standards of minimum height clearance, some 20 feet of elevation had to be achieved along the pedestrian walkway as it extends east, toward downtown Farmville, from the opening of the vehicular bridge onto the pedestrian bridge. It was achieved by adding to a bank that already existed.

Work on the project was done by English Construction Co. Inc. of Lynchburg. The bulk of the $4.125 million project was financed through savings from the low interest rate on a bond consolidation of all three Longwood-managed apartment communities that the Longwood Real Estate Foundation negotiated in December 2007.

Lancer Park, originally called Stanley Park, was built in three sections between 1999 and 2003. It consists of 30 four-bedroom townhouses, two buildings with 12 two-bedroom apartments each, and two buildings with four-bedroom apartments each. The Longwood Real Estate Foundation bought the complex in August 2005, and it has been managed by Longwood, through the Office of Residential and Commuter Life, since fall 2006.