SOU currently houses just over 1,000 students in residence halls. Our student housing includes four residence hall complexes plus family apartment housing. With the exception of Madrone Hall, our current residence halls offer only traditional ‘dorm’ arrangements of small, shared rooms and large community bathrooms. The largest hall on campus is Cascade, which also houses the cafeteria for students on meal plans and conference guests. Using over half of the steam heat generated for the entire campus, Cascade is the most inefficient building on campus. It has outlived its useful life and is prohibitively expensive to renovate.
SOU’s recent master plan update calls for the de-commissioning and eventual removal of Cascade and the shift of residential facilities and dining commons to the other side of Siskiyou Blvd., adjacent to Greensprings residence hall. This shift will create a ‘critical mass’ community that is a vibrant place for students to live, interact, and socialize. The change also opens up the academic core for potential future instructional buildings West of Hannon Library.
This past year, with assistance from the consulting firm Brailsford & Dunlavy, SOU issued a Request for Qualifications and then a Request for Proposals seeking a developer with whom to enter into a public-private partnership. This type of partnership allows SOU to obtain new housing by entering into a ground-lease arrangement that results in SOU owning the structures at the end of the lease. The project is financed through a separate non-profit foundation; thus, it does not tie up our capacity to fund other campus projects on campus.
Through the RFP process, SOU selected American Campus Communities (ACC) to develop a housing project of 600-700 beds and a new dining commons. ACC has teamed with SERA Architects (architects for the HEC, Ashland Library, and SOU master plan update) and Ashland’s own Adroit Construction (general contractor for the HEC, Medford Airport, and many other major projects in Southern Oregon).
Throughout the summer we have been meeting with ACC, SERA, and Adroit to refine the design concept, develop a time line, begin communicating with the City of Ashland Planning Commission, and address many transactional components, such as the lease, financing, and contractual issues. Following are some of the major elements—and benefits—of this project:
- The project will provide quality jobs, community services, local hiring, environmental improvements, affordable student housing, and a voice for the community in the development process
- The new dining commons and residence halls create a new gateway to both Ashland and the SOU campus for visitors
- SOU and the ACC team are working collaboratively to create a development that will allow students to thrive as individuals while connecting them to the larger campus and surrounding community.
- The project will expand the percentage of student housed on campus as well as increase the number of upper division students who live in campus housing. This increases student retention at SOU and reduces the number of cars traveling to and from campus on a daily basis
- The new housing community and dining facility will strengthen SOU’s recruiting efforts of first year students, who may currently choose not to attend SOU due to the age and quality of the existing housing and dining facilities
- The new dining commons and residence halls will be designed to LEED standards with high sustainability goals integrated into the project
- The project presents a unique and exciting place-making opportunity to shape a new neighborhood, which enhances the campus and its relationship to the broader community