Wesley College looks like a real liberal arts college after the streetscape project completed last spring and summer in time for the fall semester created a real college campus.
Since the beginning of the fall semester, Wesley College students have been enjoying a true liberal arts setting for a change as opposed to just blending in with downtown Dover thanks to a $2.5 million streetscape project that unified the formerly fractured campus.
At last, they can walk from class to class like normal college students, utilizing walkways, plazas and green space that all add up for an attractive scenery.
Wesley College's streetscape plan converted sections of North Bradford, Fulton and Cecil streets in Dover's historic district into the campus, college officials said.
It was designed by Becker Morgan Group in Dover, and Whiting-Turner in Newark was the general contractor for the streetscape.
The new campus' infrastructure also has improved street lighting and free Wi-Fi service for all the students carrying smart phones, tablets and laptops in the digital age.
As Wesley President Dr. William N. Johnston put it, the main part of campus had finally become a "coherent setting."
Add it all together, and Wesley College students believe the new look has improved quality of life for them.
"I think it's brought the school closer together," said Wesley senior Charminca Brown, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J. "We feel more proud of our school now because we actually do look like a college."
Graduate student Katherine Brossard, of Chicago, transferred to Wesley from Eastern Illinois University, where she had grown accustomed to walking a massive campus.
"There were always students on campus and that's how a liberal arts campus should feel," Brossard said. "I came to Wesley because I wanted a small school feeling. But it was so disconnected. There were people driving through our campus. You had to worry about getting hit by a car. Now, there are so many more students that are outside during the day.
"You have more of a campus feeling," she said. "You're proud to come to class. You want to stay out more; you don't go straight to your dorm or straight to class."
For Wesley junior, Colleen Witowski, of Baltimore, the streetscape project made the campus look larger.
"People are like,' Let's meet outside and sit on the benches," she said. "And I've also had classes come outside. It's a new space to just hang out and learn."
And it made her job as a student ambassador easier. Ambassadors conduct campus tours for would-be students.
Wesley senior Michael Streeter, of Washington, D.C., said the streetscape would go a long way in helping Wesley to not just recruit new students but retain them as well.
"As students, we've made the investment to come here and pay tuition," Streeter said. "It definitely feels like Wesley in turn is making an investment in us."
Underlying all the new amenities is the fact that students feel safer now that they have a campus to call their own, said senior Korey Thompson, of Trenton, N.J.
"Now that the streetscape is here, there's more lighting and you don't have to worry about someone jumping out at you while you're walking to class," he said.
The fragmented campus of Wesley College, founded in 1873, was built when it was a junior college that students commuted to, Johnston said. Since then, Wesley has become a liberal arts college and has doubled in size to about 2,500 students, many of whom resided in residence halls, he said. As such, traffic needed to be moved to the perimeter of campus.
The Student Government Association and the Alumni Association conducted fundraisers. But the biggest amount of funding came from a state of Delaware infrastructure fund grant, college officials said. No tuition funds were used.
Construction crews began work in May 9 and completed work in August, in time for the fall semester.
A total of nearly $5.8 million was pledged or secured for the Plaza project, renovations for the J. Allen Frear Federal building given to Wesley, the Annual Fund and other upcoming projects, Wesley spokeswoman Jessica Cook said. This surpassed the college's goal of $5.3 million set by the Wesley Board of Trustees last year.