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Shaw University Announces Next Step Toward ‘The ShawU District’

RALEIGH, N.C. — Shaw University has taken the necessary next step toward the development of The ShawU District, the transformational real-estate project that will preserve the institution’s history of progress while positioning it to take advantage of its prime location. To that end, the university is announcing the selection of Little Diversified Architectural Consulting (Little) to lead the master planning process.

“Since its inception, Shaw University has always served as an anchor and catalyst in the southeast and downtown Raleigh areas, so we welcome input from all of our stakeholders as we develop The ShawU District,” Shaw University President Paulette R. Dillard said.

Opportunities for input from Shaw University students, faculty, staff, alumni and the surrounding university community start this summer. All pertinent information will be available online at To receive notifications about those sessions and other updates, send an email here.

“The more I learn about the project, the more I appreciate that The ShawU District is going to help my alma mater,” said Maria Foxx Spaulding, an alum from the class of 1972. “I was concerned about too much change until understanding what we’re actually talking about here is enhancing and preserving everything we love about Shaw University.”

A November 2019 Urban Land Institute report commissioned by Shaw University determined that leveraging the institution’s land was the best path forward to attract and retain students, staff and faculty, as well as improve facilities. Real estate, handled properly, has the potential to support the university’s core mission by serving as a revenue generator through land leases, joint ventures and the sale of noncore and nonstrategic property, according to the report. Moving in that direction, the university applied to have the city of Raleigh rezone its parcels for mixed-use development. The city approved the request in June 2023, setting the stage for Shaw University to identify a master planner to come up with the design for The ShawU District.

“What we want from the master planning process is the opportunity for all stakeholders to share their perspectives on a design that supports the university’s mission,” Dillard said. “We need everyone to understand and embrace that we’re creating a district in downtown Raleigh where our students learn and live, and where our faculty and staff work.”

A transparent and competitive solicitation process resulted in Shaw University choosing Little because of the firm’s demonstrated success in creating dynamic urban spaces that harmonize functionality and aesthetics. The firm is known for its innovative approach to establishing an urban mixed-use district with a historically Black university at the core.

"Shaw University stands as a beacon of heritage and inclusivity in the heart of Raleigh’s downtown,” said Jerry U. Guerrier, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, LEED, the community studio principal at Little. “As we design, we are not just shaping buildings but molding a future that respects its roots as a historically Black university while embracing all communities. The master plan is a canvas that allows us to create spaces of work, life and study that honor the university's legacy, stimulate cultural exchange, and foster business growth. This unique opportunity is a testament to the transformative power of design in bridging the past and the future."

Student housing is a priority the university has identified for the master plan. Everything else will be determined based on Little’s market analysis and stakeholder input.

Under the guidance of Little, Shaw University envisions a master plan that seamlessly integrates academic, residential, commercial and recreational components to fortify its ability to invest in cutting-edge research, enhance educational opportunities and enrich the experience of its students, faculty and staff.

Master planning is expected to be completed by late December 2024, with a final public-facing draft ready during the first quarter of 2025.

For more information, contact the Shaw University Office of Communications and Marketing at

About Shaw University

Shaw University is the first historically Black university in North Carolina and among the oldest in the nation. Founded in 1865, the university has a rich history steeped in tradition, activism and service. Shaw University was the first college in the nation to offer a four-year medical school; the first institution of higher learning established for freedmen after the Civil War, and the first historically Black college in the nation to open its doors to women.

About Little Diversified Architectural and Consulting Firm

Founded in 1964, Little has over 400 employees in six locations (including Durham, North Carolina). Little specializes in a variety of market types including community (higher education, schools, civic); healthcare (acute care, specialty centers, clinical, senior living); retail (brand experience, service retail, supermarkets, marketplace, corporate rollout); and workplace (interiors, mission critical, office). Little is driven by its commitment to demonstrate that design has a powerful impact on improving human and organizational performance.

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