Location: Fargo, ND
Students depend on colleges and universities to provide far more than what’s found inside the classroom. Students need access to expert faculty in their offices, and they need hands-on educational opportunities. Students depend on well-stocked libraries and access to digital information so that they can pursue their research efforts. But one of the needs that institutions of higher learning have the greatest challenge meeting is student housing.
Students need affordable rooms close to or on campus, but that is neither simple nor cheap to provide. Now, thanks to a clever approach and partnership, North Dakota State University (NDSU) has found a way to better meet that need.
Meeting NDSU's Housing Needs
NDSU has had its largest student enrollments in the University’s history, holding steady at more than 14,000, creating a great need to provide housing for these students. While funding has not been readily available to construct the necessary housing, the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association (Foundation) has acquired properties near campus over the past 20 years with the vision of one day converting the land into student housing. In 2016, the Foundation released a request for proposal with the intent of creating new housing to provide for the unique needs of students. The Foundation saw the need to reduce their direct risks while still producing the housing necessary for students’ needs. This led to an investment structure in which PROffutt Limited Partnership would take on the burden of developing and managing the housing—named The Bridges Student Edition. This division of risk and investment is proving beneficial for all. The Foundation, out of necessity, has limited its own direct involvement; PROffutt has found a new investment opportunity; and, most importantly, NDSU’s students will gain access to nearly 350 new beds across the street from campus.
PROffutt will own and manage the housing units themselves while leasing the land from the Foundation. The lease will last 50 years, and the Foundation has the right to buy out the properties at any point during that time at a depreciating amount. At the end of 50 years, the properties will transfer ownership to the Foundation at no cost. While the agreement is in effect, PROffutt takes on all responsibilities for managing the housing property, including marketing and renting to students, operations and maintenance, improvements, and so forth.
Prioritizing the Students
The Bridges Student Edition was designed and is being built with student needs in mind.That all starts with its location along north University Drive just across from campus.
This area is already popular with students and hosts the Sanford Health Athletic Complex/Scheels Center, fraternities, and sororities along the same roadway. But PROffut has chosen to make this housing a little different. Perhaps the most telling student-focused element is the decision to mainly construct 2- and 4-bedroom options. Research done on behalf of the Foundation shows that students of nearly all age who were interested in the new housing had a preference for 2- or 4-bedroom arrangements.
The students also showed overwhelming support for private bedrooms over shared rooms, placing an emphasis on privacy and independence within their dwellings. With this in mind, every single bedroom will have one bed as well as its own private bathroom. This means that every student living in the new housing will essentially have his or her own master bedroom. Added privacy still did not diminish the housing footprint. The Foundation initially requested a plan for 250-300 beds; PROffutt’s plan will provide nearly 350.
The Bridges Student Edition will include a green space for students to use that provides an outdoor area for recreation and activities while maintaining students’ privacy. The green space will be in the center of the housing, with the students’ rooms on all sides. There will also be more than 6,000 square feet of commercial space available on the ground floor focused on student interests (books, food, etc.).
Taking the Job on the Road
After meeting NDSU's housing needs, PROffutt has taken this model and shown other institutions how they can meet their own housing needs in a similar way. HEI is providing all civil engineering services for the PROffutt-led team and assisted
with planning efforts. HEI is also providing a different kind of assistance through 3D modeling.
By converting concepts and sketches to 3D models, it has become easier for stakeholders to gain a fuller understanding of the concepts and plans going forward. This project also hits home for many of HEI's staff that includes 79 NDSU alumni. The project is currently under construction by B.C. Contracting and is expected to open up to students in August 2018. By using a similar funding approach and a team that has done this before, universities and colleges around the region—even without flexible budgets—now have one more way they can meet the housing needs of their students.
On July 14th, the project’s groundbreaking ceremony was held to celebrate the start of construction with plans to open to students in August 2018.
See HEI's 3D models and learn more about the project online: https://bridgesnd.com