University of South Dakota Offers New Home Away From Home

September 21, 2009

VERMILLION — Forget the cramped cubicles called dorm rooms.
Next fall, University of South Dakota students will move into Coyote Village, the new apartment-style residence hall complex.
An official groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday for the $26.8 million complex. The new facility, located just south of the DakotaDome, will feature 175 units with 550 beds. The four-story co-ed complex, which will be open to sophomores and older students, offers two- and four-bedroom options.
Construction is already well under way. Work began in early June, but USD officials waited until the start of the school year to hold an official ceremony.
“They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I think they hired the wrong group,” USD President Jim Abbott joked at Monday’s ceremony, looking the structure quickly rising behind him.
The 195,708-square-foot complex will be filled with amenities offering all the comforts of home — and a whole lot more.
Super suite units will be equipped with kitchenettes, including full-sized refrigerators, a microwave and a sink. Apartment units will feature full kitchens with refrigerators, a microwave, range stove and a sink. Units will have one bathroom per two students, while four-bedroom units will include two bathrooms.
Inside each fully furnished unit, students will have hardwired Internet access to each single-occupied bedroom. Wireless Internet access will be available throughout the building.
Coyote Village will also have lounge areas for students, a central laundry facility, tanning booths, a convenience store, and SMART classroom and online gaming station technology. Outside, Coyote Village will feature landscaping and multiple outdoor courtyard areas.
The campus landscape continues to change significantly, Abbott said. Coyote Village’s opening in August 2010 will be followed closely by the opening of the nearby wellness center in January 2011.
“With Coyote Village and the wellness center, the north side (of campus) will look very different in three or four years,” he said. “The investments on campus are an investment in our students.”
USD is responding to students’ higher expectations of campus facilities, particularly their housing, Abbott said
“They (students) no longer want the best, they demand the best,” he said “They expect more from campus housing. We are aggressively trying to fill that need.”
USD will continue to emphasize its programs in recruiting students, Abbott said. However, USD officials recognize that prospective students look at the campus where they will spend the next four years of their lives, he said.
“When it comes to recruiting students, the new facility is helpful,” he said. “Students often judge a university by what they see.”
Coyote Village construction has moved along at a rapid pace, despite the unusually rainy summer, said Rich Van Den Hul, vice president for finance and administration.
“We are excited getting this operational in the next year, so students can get in,” he said.
USD remains in the midst of a building boom, but Coyote Village is the only new facility that will serve students 24/7, Van Den Hul said. The estimated monthly room charge will range from $453 to $658 per student.
The project also adds 700 parking spaces, marking a 20 percent increase in campus parking, the vice president said. Of that number, 200 parking spaces will be reserved for commuter students, faculty and staff.
In addition, Coyote Village is located close to the DakotaDome and Muenster University Center, he said. The apartment complex will be within a short walking distance to the rest of campus.
USD officials conducted extensive research on housing needs as part of a 10-year master plan, Van Den Hul said.
“We surveyed focus groups. And we asked students, ‘What do you want?’” he said.
The Coyote Village project was developed by Georgia-based RISE, an industry leader in student housing, Van Den Hul said.
“We also went to Georgia and looked at a number of facilities and the way they were doing things,” he said.
USD officials also looked at a striking demographic, Van Den Hul said.
“A Midwest university found that 90 percent of their students had their own bedroom and didn’t share a bathroom,” he said.
The figure showed the need for more space and privacy in student housing, he said.
Coyote Village is also green, as it saves 16 percent on energy costs and uses less water, said RISE vice president Curt Fowler.
The project bucks the national trend with construction during the recession, Fowler said. And while RISE is Georgia-based, 40 percent of the Coyote Village work has gone to local contractors, he said.
“This campus is truly undergoing a transformation,” he said. “We are celebrating growth (at USD) in this economy. Not everyone is as fortunate.”
The recession actually helped in that construction firms were seeking work and material costs were lower, Van Den Hul said.
USD also benefited from the federal stimulus program, he said. Coyote Village qualified for the Build America program and will use bonds at 3.9 percent to finance construction. Student housing fees will be used to repay the bonds.
Coyote Village has already drawn strong interest from students, Van Den Hul said. Sign-up will be held later in the school year.
The new facility should fill up quickly, based on the demand when McFadden Hall was converted into apartment-style housing, Van Den Hul said.
With completion of Coyote Village, Cypress Courts and Redwood Courts apartments will come off line as student housing, Van Den Hul said. Julian Hall should be off line in four or five years, he said.
Coyote Village will also reduce demand on other residence halls, opening up more single rooms, he said.
USD enrolled 9,251 students last year, and the university should show another strong year when enrollment figures are released next month, Van Den Hul said.
Watching in the audience at Monday’s ceremony, Vermillion mayor Dan Christopherson said Coyote Village not only meets student demand but continues strong growth in the Clay County community of 10,000 residents.
As Vermillion’s largest employer, USD’s growth fuels the local economy, Christopherson said.
“Vermillion has been in a real construction phase the last seven or eight years,” he said. “We have poured more concrete within the city limits of Vermillion during the last five years than I think we have at any time in our history.”
USD has shown the ability to meet the changing times, Van Den Hul said.
“We are reaching out to South Dakota’s best and brightest students,” he said.

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