Editor’s Note: This article is part two of a two-part series.
Southern Adventist University is working on building a new housing option to meet an expected rise in demand for campus housing next fall semester, according to Marty Hamilton, associate vice president for Financial Administration.
Hamilton said Southern’s Board of Trustees has approved the construction of 25 small, cottage-style houses off of Colcord Drive, on the slope behind Campus Safety and the Art Annex.
According to Dennis Negrón, vice president for Student Development, the university chose this location because the area has been cleared, and there are already buildings and structures on the land.
“Transforming this patch of land will be easier than other parts of campus,” he stated.
Negrón believes the new cottages will house only juniors and seniors due to the number of upperclassmen Southern expects to live on campus next fall. However, further analysis of the classes would have to be done to know for sure.
The 600 square-foot houses will hold four students and include a kitchen, washer and dryer and dishwasher, according to Hamilton. The preliminary floor plan of the units shows two bedrooms separated by a living area, kitchen and bathroom.
“They’ll be very updated,” Hamilton said. “And I think while they’re not as comfy as Southern Village, it’s a different type of housing, and that’s what I’m excited about.”
Negrón wrote in an email to the Accent that the primary reason Southern is building these houses is the university’s expectation that enrollment will continue to grow. Although Southern is also building four new apartment buildings in Village Proper, those buildings are not expected to be completed in time for next year’s fall semester.
“These cottages can be built quicker and thus meet our deadline of having extra housing for students at the beginning of next academic year,” Negrón stated.
According to Hamilton, Southern’s goal is to complete one of the new Village buildings before the next fall semester and at least three of the buildings by 2025.
“We seriously need the housing for next fall, and so we’re scrambling to push the Southern Village projects and try to get them up and running so we’ve got room to breathe for our students,” Hamilton said.
Southern anticipates needing 256 additional beds by the fall of 2025 and 100 or more new beds before next fall, according to Hamilton. The 25 approvedcottage houses will provide 100 new beds. Hamilton said the university has plans to build five additional cottages to those already sanctioned. The plans cannot progress, however, until approved by the board.
The cottage units are being constructed by an outside company, Hamilton further explained, and Southern is working on building foundations and adding infrastructure for each house.
“I gotta bring in water, sewer and electricity to the site,” he said. “… So I’m going to be working on that for the next eight, nine months.”
There will be parking available around the cottages, but not enough for each student living there to park near their unit, according to Hamilton. He plans to encourage students living in the cottages to walk or bike around campus, as the units’ location is closer to the promenade and campus than Southern Village.
“So the idea is we will either have parking available for them by Campus Safety, or if you go over by WSMC and Brock Hall, we’ve got expanded parking,” Hamilton said. “And then we’re creating lighted pathways where you can get to these cottages.”
Each unit will cost around $143,000, with around $12,000 of initial costs going toward furnishing the units, according to Hamilton. He added that the cost per bed in the cottages will be much less than the cost per bed in Southern Village.
Rising demand for housing on campus is not only the result of Southern’s increased enrollment but also an effect of a growing number of students choosing to live on campus due to economic factors like increasing housing costs in the local area.
“Now, all the rents have gone way up, and so we normally would house maybe 70 to 72 percent of our student body,” Hamilton said. “ … Well now we’re over 80 [percent], so that is where all this pressure is coming [from].”
Hamilton said the cottages will be a flexible option for Southern in the future if the units are not needed to house students because they could be rented out to the community or used by Southern staff. By constructing the new homes, the university is preparing for continued growth.
Southern had never housed 2,000 students on campus until this semester, according to Hamilton. He said he thinks the university could accommodate 3,500 students on campus with its current infrastructure, but it would have to make changes to house more than that.
Despite the challenges that arise when the university must build more student housing, Hamilton said he is happy to see more students living on campus.
“I think that’s what makes it special — is if we can keep as many kids on campus, they’re interacting; they’re building relationships long term,” Hamilton said. “I think having them on campus is the Southern experience.”