Residence halls overcrowded, new dorm pushed back
Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 00:09
In order to meet the demand of the growing number of students who live on campus, Sam Houston State University will be building two dormitories scheduled to be open by the 2016-17 academic year, according to officials.
The new facilities, tentatively named the South Residential District, will be located south of 21st Street between Ave. I and Ave. J, and should house approximately 650 students in total.
The project is in the programming phase of new construction, where the need for new facilities is location, funding and scope of the project is established.
“Programming is done with a company contracted through TSUS (Texas State University System),” Denise Neu, director of facilities planning and construction, said. “It involves determining spatial adjacencies as well as qualitative and quantitative information about the proposal.”
The site for the project is currently home to a university-operated commuter parking lot and the Richmond Apartments, which were purchased by SHSU in 2012. The Richmond Apartments will be demolished to clear space for a new parking lot, and the South Residential District dorms will be built where the parking lot lies.
The proposal also includes a road expansion to provide better access to the new residence halls.
SHSU President Dana Gibson, Ph.D., said in her State of the University address that the university is at 99.7 percent capacity. Because of this, director of residence life Joellen Tipton said, special care must be taken during the programming stage of development in selecting a site that’s suitable for student needs.
“A lot of times, when you need to build a new dorm, you can raze one of the old ones and construct on that lot,” Tipton said. “We can’t afford to lose a dorm for the length of time it would take to build another one in its place. During preplanning we had to determine where we had the space and where it was feasible to build the new residential complex.”
Building new residence halls is imperative to match the university’s projected growth over the next decade, according to the updated Master Plan.
“Each year, more and more upper classmen want to stay on campus,” Tipton said. “We’ve always had around 35 percent choose to renew [their on campus accommodations] every year, but that number is growing, because of the convenience factor and affordability of living on campus.”
Currently, residence life uses Sorority Hill for overflow housing for freshman girls who couldn’t be accommodated in a regular dorm with the hope that once the rush period ends, sorority pledges who live in a dorm on campus would be willing to swap rooms with a student temporarily living in their respective sorority house.
“We believe in the value of freshmen living on campus,” Tipton said. “The South Residential District is a natural expansion to meet the needs of our growing student body.”
It’s unclear if the district will also include the new South Side dining facility, a building similar to Old Main Market.
The TSUS Board of Regents approved the development of the South Residential District at their quarterly meeting in May as part of an omnibus capital improvements program, which included several renovations to the SHSU campus.
In addition to constructing the South Residential District, the capital improvements program includes the eventual demolition of Randel, Vick and Spivey Houses, White Hall, and Sorority Hill, the construction of a new art complex and $30 million in renovations to the Lowman Student Center.
TSUS documents show the cost of the project will total more than $87.5 million, by far the largest capital improvement project slated through 2019.
The next step in the development of the South Residential District is the design phase, which precedes construction. Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for summer 2015.