Exterior of Lake and River Residence Halls

New Lake and River Residence Halls are now open

Lake and River, the first wave of Tulane’s transformative residence halls, opened in August. With classroom and gathering space for all students, these beautiful new residences will transform the Tulane experience through an innovative combination of living and learning opportunities on the uptown campus.

Photo by Jason Cohen

It’s midmorning on the third day of class at Tulane University, and The Small Family Collaboration Hub — the study, lounge and play space at the new Lake and River Residence Halls — is just starting to awaken.

Two students are shooting pool between classes, while several others are working on projects in private study spaces. A couple of students are checking out the U.S. Open on a 100-inch TV, not far from a row of booths where others are reading, chatting or simply escaping from the heat.

While The Hub is open to all Tulane students, nearly 700 students, including sophomores Ella Salazar and Kenneth Munroe, call the Lake and River Residence Halls home. And both are impressed with the new construction, from the suite-style dorm rooms to the convenience of study and lounge areas.

Salazar, who helps plan activities as part of the Resident Hall Association, is especially pumped about the commercial-grade kitchens located on the second floor of each hall. “The kitchens are huge, and I can’t wait to get in there to cook and bake. I’ve always felt that you build community through food.”

Munroe is impressed with the attention to detail in the design. “I’ve noticed that the windows have been engineered in a way that prevents heat from entering the rooms, which is definitely a benefit in these hot summer days at the beginning of the semester,” he said.

Exterior of Lake and River Residence Halls
Students enjoy places to relax and study outside Lake and River Residence Halls. (Photo by Sabree Hill)

The Lake and River Residence Halls, located on McAlister Way between Freret and Willow streets, are the first of five on-campus residences designed to transform the Tulane student experience through an innovative combination of living and learning opportunities. They are the first installment of The Village, the largest capital investment in Tulane’s history and one that will dramatically increase the capacity and impact of Tulane’s on-campus residential spaces.

“These beautiful new residence halls are emblematic of Tulane’s unique, creative and relational culture,” Tulane President Michael A. Fitts said.

“Shared spaces ignite intellectual curiosity and offer opportunities for creative collisions and personal growth. River and Lake are designed for exactly that kind of engagement.”

Michael A. Fitts, President of Tulane University

When Fitts arrived at Tulane in 2014, he established a task force to strategically consider ways to enhance the student experience. In addition to new residence halls, the effort included such major projects as Mussafer Hall; The Malkin Sacks Commons; the Freeman School expansion; Steven and Jann Paul Hall, the new home of the School of Science and Engineering that will open this academic year; the renovation/expansion of the School of Architecture; a new TUPD station on Broadway; and more – in total, 11 buildings equaling 584,000 square feet on the uptown campus alone.

The Village is another milestone in the strategic vision to transform Tulane’s undergraduate education and engagement. Together, River and Lake, which fill the area once occupied by Tulane’s long-serving student-dining facility, bring online 230,000 square feet and almost 700 beds, offering multifunction living, learning and gathering spaces.

Each residence has an 18-seat room for small seminar classes or student study. Under Phase 2, which will include the construction of Fogelman Hall to replace Irby House and new residences to replace Paterson Hall, there will be two Faculty-in-Residence who will live full-time in The Village and serve as visible leaders, teachers and mentors to students. Two dining venues, an Eat Now in The Hub and a Shake Smart in River Hall, are projected to open in the spring 2024 semester.

The Lake and River Residences complex includes a 200-seat classroom auditorium open to courses throughout the university. The classroom features a large, fixed screen with a projector and sound system that will be conducive to classroom instruction as well as lectures and movies.

The complex includes a 200-seat auditorium. (Photo by Sabree Hill)
The complex includes a 200-seat auditorium for classroom use. (Photo by Sabree Hill)

Rooms in the River and Lake Residences were made available to returning students – generally sophomores and juniors. Research has shown that living on campus improves academic success, increases student engagement, provides convenient access to resources, and generally makes for a more rewarding and inspiring undergraduate experience.

Construction on Lake and River began in 2020 following the demolition of Bruff Commons, which was built in the 1960s and was replaced in 2019 by The Malkin Sacks Commons — an ultra-modern, 77,000-square-foot culinary destination that also houses the Newcomb Institute and student meeting rooms.

Lake and River halls have a shared outdoor courtyard. Between the two buildings is the Small Family Collaboration Hub. Named in honor of longtime Tulane supporters Albert H. Small Jr. and Tina B. Small, whose gift established the space, the hub offers 14,000 square feet for students to gather to pursue shared interests in a relaxing and fun-filled area. It includes room to collaborate on school projects and for departments to host career and academic advising, wellness events, and campus programming. In addition, the Small Family Collaboration Hub has foosball and pool tables, shuffleboard, and a large-screen television.

Small gathering rooms can accommodate study groups.
Small gathering rooms can accommodate study groups. (Photo by Sabree Hill)
The public spaces are open to all students, not just residents of those halls.
The public spaces are open to all students, not just residents of those halls. (Photo by Sabree Hill)

Timothy Lempfert, executive director of the Tulane Department of Housing and Residence Life, said he is thrilled with how Lake and River have been received by students.

“Students have been so excited about the new residence halls, and they have really started to take advantage of the community spaces in the Small Family Collaboration Hub,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of activity throughout the day, and especially in the evening.”

Ella Salazar is among the students taking advantage. “The community and private spaces have been great,” she said. “They’re great for hanging out with your friends or getting down to business with studying.”