August 19, 2014

Make room for new dorms on college campuses in Missouri and Kansas

The nation’s campus housing boom continues to play out in the two states, where, despite complaints of less state support for capital improvements, some of the largest public schools are opening, building or planning to erect new student housing.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City this month will open its fourth and, at least for now, final residence hall after a decade of building new student housing on campus.

The University of Kansas is erecting two residence halls to replace a nearly 50-year-old dorm that will be razed because it would cost too much to fix up.

And in Columbia, the University of Missouri has moved away from the popular suite-style floor plan and back to old-style community living for its newest residence hall, the 11th built in the past 13 years.

The nation’s campus housing boom continues to play out in Missouri and Kansas where, despite complaints of less state support for capital improvements, some of the largest public schools are opening, building or planning to erect new student housing.

“I’ve been with the Association of College and University Housing Officers for nine years, and during that time I’ve seen a tremendous increase in new buildings spurred by growing enrollments,” said James Bauman, association spokesman.

“The last housing boom was in the late 1960’s-early ’70s. Most residence halls on campuses were built 30 or 40 years ago, and obviously college students of today have different desires than students had 30 years ago.”

Shrinking state funding doesn’t stop schools from building dorms, campus facility officials say, because residence halls pay for themselves. Universities use student housing fees to pay off construction bonds.

Other schools use a private/public partnership in which the college owns the land and leases it to a private company that constructs and manages the building.

UMKC used the private/public model to build its Oak Place residence hall a few years ago. The university has since taken over management of that building.

Oak Place also represents another trend: the housing tower with street-level retail, including restaurants.

The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg expects to open a residence hall called The Crossing — South at Holden by the fall of 2015. The project is a $41 million, 325-bed mixed-use residence hall and retail facility with a Spin Neapolitan Pizza and a Starbucks.

“The rent from the retail helps finance the facility along with fees students pay to live there,” said Jeff Murphy, university spokesman.

At UMKC, the rent students pay to live in the new Hospital Hill student housing will go toward retiring the 30-year bond debt on the $30.3 million apartment building.

About 300 of UMKC’s medical, dental, nursing and pharmacy students will move this month into the apartments, built on Troost Avenue between 24th and 25th streets. Crews have been busy wheeling in furniture and putting the last touches of paint on walls.

The new building brings the school’s on-campus housing capacity to 1,800 beds, said Bob Simmons, an associate vice chancellor.

The monthly rates on Hospital Hill: $974 for a one-bedroom unit, $882 to share a two-bedroom apartment or $774 to share a four-bedroom apartment. Those fees, which include utilities, are comparable to what students would pay for off-campus apartments, UMKC officials said.

Students also want the latest in amenities.

“Students are the customer,” Bauman said. “So, the saying goes, what the customer wants, they get.”

They want laundry rooms, kitchens, living rooms and private or semiprivate bathrooms. They want study rooms, fitness areas, computer labs and Wi-Fi. All those are included in the new Hospital Hill building.

Even as they cater to student desires, university officials say they must be careful to keep housing costs down.

“No one wants a beautiful residence hall that students can’t afford to live in,” Simmons said.

For now, he said, UMKC — where the oldest residence hall is only 10 years old — is done building housing. “You have to be very careful not to overbuild,” Simmons said. “You want to fit the growth curve.”

Among the projects on other campuses:

KU is more than two months into construction of two five-story residence halls on Daisy Hill. The new dorms will combine with existing residence halls to form a residential quadrangle.

“Once the two new residence halls are completed, McCollum Hall will be torn down,” said Gavin Young, a KU spokesman serving the provost’s office. He said McCollum “is an outdated facility that was cost-prohibitive to renovate.”

The two freshman-focused halls will include a mix of public and private areas and will give 350 students the option of living alone or bunking in a two- or four-person suite, Young said. The $47.8 million project is to be done by fall 2015.

KU’s next project will be a new apartment complex for single upperclassmen and graduate students at 19th and Iowa streets in Lawrence.

“The size and scope of that proposal are still very much in the discussion stage,” Young said. The goal is to have it completed by 2017.

On the swankier side, KU is using private, donated dollars to build a new complex, largely for athletes, to open for the 2016-17 school year south of Allen Fieldhouse on Naismith Drive.

The $17.5 million apartment project will house about 66 students, including men’s and women’s basketball players. Each apartment will have a full kitchen, living and dining room. The building will include lounges on each floor, two team meeting rooms, tutoring space and a multipurpose room.

K-State will name a new residence hall in honor of former president Jon Wefald.

Wefald Hall will be the first residence hall built on the Manhattan campus since 1967. Construction of the eight-floor residence hall is to begin in September and be completed by fall 2016.

Wefald Hall is part of a larger, $76 million project that includes a new dining facility and renovations to two other residence halls in what is called the Kramer Complex.

MU’s Department of Residential Life is nearing the final phase of a master plan approved by University of Missouri curators 13 years ago for the Columbia campus, said Frankie Minor, director of residential life.

“We have been in a pretty aggressive plan since 2001,” Minor said. At that time, the newest residence hall on campus had been built in 1965, back when most facilities didn’t have air conditioning and dorm rooms came with only two or three electrical outlets. Today’s freshmen come to campus with 20 to 25 electrical appliances, Minor said.

In a little more than a decade, 11 residence halls have been built at MU and nine dorms have been renovated, including an all-female hall reopening this fall. Six dorms have been torn down.

A 10th renovated hall will reopen next fall, and at the same time MU will open a $29 million, 330-bed, community living hall on Virginia Avenue. The interior will be mostly traditional double student rooms with community bathrooms.

Not many schools are building community-style campus housing these days. Most lean toward suites where residents of two rooms share an adjoining bathroom.

MU had been building suites, Minor said, but it has gone back to putting a community bathroom on a hallway shared by many students to promote its community living and working philosophy. The community bathrooms are not gender specific, but do provide privacy for shower and toilet stalls.

MU housing officials noticed, Minor said, “that with suite-style housing, students had more privacy, but it was harder for them to get to know one another.”

The school first revisited the community-living style with three dorms built in 2009 that also included a few suites.

Next the university plans to demolish three high-rises across from Mizzou’s football stadium and erect five residence halls in their place. By the time MU is done in 2023, the work will have taken about 22 years, Minor said, “and we will have completely new and renovated housing facilities.”

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or email mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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