As with most schools, homecoming is a special time at Morgan State University as generations of alumni return to the Baltimore campus to relive memories and renew acquaintances. Since 2008, those alumni and other visitors to Maryland’s largest historically black college or university have seen something else—near-constant construction and maintenance activity. 

That flow of work is aimed at expanding services for Morgan State’s diverse 9,000-student population, supporting more than 140 academic degree programs and sustaining a drive to become a Carnegie-classified very high (R1) doctoral research institution. In 2016, Morgan State’s entire campus was designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Having completed several major new facilities (see below), Morgan State’s capital building program wasn’t deterred by the onset of the pandemic in 2020. If anything, the program has accelerated over the past three years, according to Kim McCalla, university associate vice president of facilities, design and construction. But McCalla insists the capital program is not simply doing construction “because we want to do something” or keeping up with Morgan State’s peer institutions.

Other facilities constructed during Morgan State University’s building program include:

Morgan Business Center
Home of the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management, the $72-million, six-story complex anchors the university’s West Campus. The 135,000-sq-ft LEED Gold facility features a real-time capital markets stock-trading center, an innovation center, computer labs, classrooms, seminar rooms, an 80-person lecture hall and a 300-person auditorium. 

Martin D. Jenkins Hall – Behavioral and Social Sciences Center 
The $79-million, 148,000-sq-ft facility contains flexible classrooms for traditional lectures or group learning, collaborative open spaces for faculty and students and a 170-seat auditorium. Room placements aim to promote interdisciplinary learning, and an instructional design development suite supports  continuing education for faculty.

Thurgood Marshall Dining Hall
Completed in 2022, the state-of-the-art dining hall includes a variety of dining options and food stations with student-friendly meal plans. The facility is part of a five-year, nearly $45-million agreement with SodexoMagic, a dining services provider partly owned by NBA Basketball Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson. SodexoMAGIC is the university’s first new food services provider in 25 years.

“We strive to plan and build in as much as we’re allowed, while meeting requirements for state funding, which accounts for about 99% of our capital program,” says McCalla, who joined Morgan State in 2008 with deep experience as an owner’s representative for managing large, complex and award-winning projects including Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Phase 3 of the Baltimore Convention Center Expansion and the University of Maryland-College Park Comcast Center.

McCalla adds that Morgan State strives to maximize the state’s investment, “incorporating as much flexibility as we can specific to each building’s programs. We also go for LEED certification and [aim to be] as sustainable as possible in conjunction with the university’s goals.”

Tina Tyler Hall

ENR MidAtlantic cited the Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall as a Project of the Year Finalist in 2021.
Photo courtesy of Morgan State University

Landmark achievements

Some of Morgan State’s recent projects include Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall, a five-story, 141,675-sq-ft student services and administrative support building that opened in 2020. McCalla says that “everybody’s loving the building,” which houses more than 17 departments and serves as a campus gateway. An ENR MidAtlantic Project of the Year Finalist in 2021, Tyler Hall has also won nearly two-dozen design and construction awards.

Last fall, Morgan State opened the Thurgood Marshall Residence Hall Tower 1, a 670-bed apartment-style structure. The $115-million, 229,797-sq-ft facility includes academic tutoring/study centers, wellness/counseling amenities, a green roof, three activity lounges per floor, a convenience store and laundry facilities. An adjacent second tower, now underway, will provide an additional 450 units when completed in the fall of 2026.

“We strive to plan and build in as much as we’re allowed, while meeting requirements for state funding.” 
—Kim McCalla, Associate Vice President for Facilities, Design and Construction, Morgan State

Also underway are a $171-million, 208,000-sq-ft Health and Human Services Building that will serve as a new home for Morgan State’s School of Community Health and Policy and a new three-story, 20,000-sq-ft public safety building.

Projects in the pipeline include a 250,000-sq-ft building for biology and chemistry that McCalla hopes to have open in 2027 and a new building to house a school of osteopathic medicine.

In addition to West Campus site improvements and deferred maintenance work, McCalla hopes to soon add renovation to the mix. She says the capital program’s original goal was to create new buildings so that existing facilities could be emptied and updated.

“We got sidetracked, so we now have more buildings needing renovation sooner than later,” she explains. “But because the university has been expanding, a new department always seems to move in as a building is vacated. That’s taken away a lot of our surge ability.”

McCalla says Morgan State’s larger projects have typically been delivered using construction manager at-risk; smaller ones use either design-bid-build or modified design-build.

“We make sure we have the best process for the best project,” she says, adding that recent supply chain issues have led Morgan State to consider using a design-assist approach. “This will likely require a shifting of some funds.”

The Center for the Built Environment & Infrastructure Studies

The Center for the Built Environment & Infrastructure Studies houses research and instructional programs for the School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Engineering.
Photo courtesy of Morgan State University

Making it happen

Underscorin these projects is Morgan State’s “passion for creating an environment where students thrive,” says Jonathan Dickinson, Gilbane Building Co. senior project executive for the Thurgood Marshall residential towers and associated dining hall. “Kim is one of the most passionate and hardworking design and construction professionals I’ve worked with.”

Barton Malow Vice President Ben Morgan adds that Morgan State sets high expectations for its project teams.

“They’re tough, but fair,” says Morgan, whose firm is leading the Health and Human Services Building project. “They know what they want in terms of quality and the people who will use this space.”

At the same time, he adds, the school gives project teams leeway to innovate. “You can offer ways to do it faster or better or in a way that will help the project along,” Morgan says. “They’ll be open to those ideas.”

“They’re tough, but fair. They know what they want in terms of quality and the people who will use this space.” 
—Ben Morgan,  Vice President, Barton Malow

A key priority for Morgan State is its requirement for minority business enterprise (MBE) participation. The school’s goal is 30%, but McCalla says, “We push and encourage our contractors to strive and exceed 40%,” a figure that several recent projects have met or exceeded.

Achieving such a high level “isn’t just going for a number,” Morgan says, “you have to work at it to make sure you have the best partners and they’re getting the most out of the experience.”

Dickinson agrees, adding that having protégé MBE partner WarrenBuilds of Upper Marlboro, Md., involved with the Thurgood Marshall projects is a huge benefit to the region’s construction community.

“The exposure they’ve gotten to larger, more commercial work has just been extraordinary,” he says. “Their employees who have been on our team are going to walk away with some extremely significant experience and knowledge that WarrenBuilds can utilize to build their own portfolio.”

Morgan State also wants to make sure its capital program maximizes learning opportunities for students in its architecture and construction management programs through internships, tours and class presentations. McCalla sets an example with guest lectures to undergraduate and graduate students. “It says something that contractors who aren’t currently working on campus ask us for potential student interns,” McCalla says. “We’ve developed a good reputation for the skills and knowledge of our students, many of whom have been hired by industry, and we’re trying to figure out how we can do more.”

Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall

The 141,000-sq-ft Calvin and Tina Tyler Hall includes a three-story lobby atrium.
Photo courtesy of Morgan State University

Expanding horizons

Keeping these and other elements of Morgan State’s capital program in sync is, McCalla says, a credit to her staff, which has grown in step with the increase in campus construction. “We recently hired three new people to assist our project managers,” she says, “and looking at what’s coming down the pipeline, we’re going to need to hire more people.”

One big opportunity on the horizon is the acquisition from the city of Baltimore of a 59-acre site of a former high school approximately a mile and a half from Morgan State’s main campus. Once the purchase is complete, the school envisions a 15- to 20-year build-out that includes developing a multipurpose convocation center, a research/innovation facility, graduate/family student housing, other educational facilities and retail and mixed-use properties. “We’ve had a lot of interest from several areas, so we expect that project will move along quickly,” McCalla says.

That effort and others provide lessons learned during the past 15 years, gleaned through post-project sessions McCalla conducts with all team members from the design team to the major trades. “We talk about what went right [or] wrong with the understanding that what’s said in the room stays in the room,” she says, adding that the exercise is not intended to point fingers, but rather help make better projects. “It’s not intended to disqualify anybody for doing work for us in the future, but rather help make better projects. I think everybody who has come away from those meetings has learned from them.”