For our Education Issue last month, I wrote about Howard University’s dilemma as it finds itself sitting on valuable vacant lots: take them to the bank by allowing private, profitable development there, or convert them into much-needed student housing or other facilities that don’t make money but do improve campus life?

Today, Howard announced a big step in the latter direction. The university plans to construct two new student residences, slated for completion by August 2014 at a total cost of $107 million.

According to Howard spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton, one building, located at Bryant and 4th streets NW, will have six stories and 257,094 square feet of space; the other, at College and 4th, will have seven stories and 138,477 square feet. Combined, there’ll be 699 units with 1,360 beds.

Here’s a rendering of the Bryant Street building:

And the College Street building:

The university is working with student housing developer Campus Apartments to build the dorms. They’re set to include two-person suites for underclassmen and individual apartments for faculty and staff, as well as communal facilities like game rooms and a 200-person multipurpose room.

Currently, the university houses about 60 percent of its undergraduates, and 40 percent of all students, on campus, according to Maybelle Bennett, director of the Howard University Community Association, the school’s liaison to its surrounding neighborhoods. In its approval of Howard’s campus plan last January, the Zoning Commission mandated that Howard provide on-campus housing for at least 70 percent of its more than 7,000 undergraduates by fall 2026.

The 1,360 beds in this project will go a long way toward fulfilling that goal. They’ll also help Howard improve on what a local advisory neighborhood commissioner recently told me were “the worst dormitories, period.”

Renderings courtesy of McKissack and McKissack