GVSU adds housing, dining options to Allendale expansion

December 16, 2008
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Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees has decided to move forward on a $52.4 million expansion of student living and dining facilities on the south end of its Allendale campus to accommodate the rising demand for housing among the university’s growing student body and give students an additional dining option.

Plans call for construction of three new apartment buildings that will house up to 608 students across 160 apartments with a mixture of one-, two- and four-bedroom units. The buildings will replace six of the 13 buildings in the Grand Valley Apartments complex at 42nd Street south of Pierce Avenue. The new dining facility will be housed in a separate two-story building on the grounds. The university acquired Grand Valley Apartments from a private developer quite a few years ago, said James Moyer, GVSU assistant vice president for facilities planning. The six buildings to be razed are the oldest in the complex. Construction will get underway on all four buildings simultaneously next April, and the buildings will open in August 2010.

The building that will house the dining facility will also feature a convenience store and a coffee lounge. Currently, the closest food service to Grand Valley Apartments is a Papa John’s carry-out restaurant. GVSU contracts with the franchise owner for its operation on the south-end campus. Presently, students have to trek to the main campus to seek out other dining options.  

The apartment buildings and the building housing the dining operation, coffee shop and convenience store will be LEED certified, so they’ll have features such as high-energy efficient appliances, lighting and plumbing and recycled materials wherever possible.

“All university buildings we build today are LEED certified or better,” Moyer said. “That’s been our standard since 2004.” 

It’s a bonded project, Moyer said, and its cost will be paid back over time through rent payments on the apartments and food purchases at the dining facilities. GVSU emphasized that room and board rates will not be raised to fund the project. GVSU’s student housing facilities have always been self-sustaining, Moyer noted.

“We don’t anticipate the new units will cost any more to lease than do the housing units we just completed in 2008,” Moyer said.

GVSU records show that last year campus housing received 6,500 applications for 5,464 available beds. Upon the completion of the new housing project in 2010, university on-campus housing will increase to 5,924 beds, but that still won’t meet the demand of all the students who would like to live on campus, according to GVSU: Some 600 freshman and more than half of all sophomores live off campus.

“It’s clear that an environment that contributes to retention and graduation not only benefits our students, it also benefits the entire state,” said GVSU President Thomas Haas in a prepared statement. “After more than 20 years of enrollment growth and increasing demands on our housing system, we must continue to ensure that our facilities meet student needs.”

Haas also noted that the university is expected to save about $1.5 million in construction costs due to the economic slowdown and the competitive building environment it has created. The project could create as many as 1,300 jobs over the duration of the construction period for vendors that supply construction materials and for construction workers. GVSU estimates about 95 percent of those jobs will be filled by West Michigan workers.

Integrated Architecture is designing both the apartment buildings and the food service building. The university selected Pioneer Construction as general contractor for the food service facility.

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