Some residents are unhappy with the new plan, too.
"I'm less concerned with how tall buildings are than what Villanova intends to do with all those cars," said Rick Leonardi, who lives near campus and is a member of Friends to Preserve Radnor, which opposed the plan.
University officials say they have addressed that problem by reducing the size of the garage from 1,800 to 1,200 cars. Those extra cars would be dispersed to a new surface parking lot behind older university buildings on Lancaster, and to two garages on campus that would each get an additional level.
The changes "reflect the interests of us, the township, and the neighbors," said Chris Kovolski, assistant to the university president. He's overseeing the $270 million project.
Under the revised plan, the two dorms would have four floors instead of five but the same number of added beds, 1,200. The height of the performing arts center would be 50 feet instead of 65, except for the stage area.
Villanova also plans to build a bridge across Lancaster Avenue to relieve pedestrian congestion at Lancaster and Ithan Avenues, now the main intersection on campus. The bridge would connect the new dorms and SEPTA's Villanova station to the western part of the campus, ending directly in front of St. Thomas of Villanova Church.
In May, the township Planning Commission voted not to recommend the university's request for a zoning change to allow the project, which would replace two large asphalt parking lots and greatly enhance the aging 10,600-student campus. The university was seeking a conditional-use agreement to allow denser development than permitted.
In rejecting the petition, planning officials said they were concerned the zoning change would not be restricted to the university. The Delaware County Planning Commission also said the plan should not be adopted, citing problems with setbacks, building lengths and heights, parking, and buffering.
Villanova says it needs the new buildings to stay competitive with other schools that have better housing and amenities. It also wants to bring back to the campus upperclassmen who rent apartments in surrounding communities - a situation that can lead to neighborhood-nuisance complaints.
Neighbors say that they aren't opposed to some type of development on that site but that Villanova has not addressed their concerns and has not provided a traffic study as promised. Kovolski said the study had been submitted to the township and would be available on its website Thursday afternoon.
Residents also say the university has been misleading them about the actual size of the buildings it plans.
"We're happy they're going to build something," Leonardi said. "The problem is what Villanova wants to do is stuff 1,200 people in this area that if it had residential zoning would accommodate maybe 200 people."