Shovels Turn for $7.8M Student Housing Complex

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For many years, students at Youngstown State University have said the campus lacks the vibe of other schools in more traditional college towns.

A major reason was the lack of on-campus student housing, even with the addition of the University Courtyard apartments in 2003 and The Flats at Wick in 2010.

And just before the 2016 school year begins, students will have a third on-campus option: University Edge apartments.

Officials broke ground Monday for a $7.8 million student apartment complex. Hallmark Campus Communities in Columbus will operate the 162-bed building to be built behind Smith Hall on Fifth Avenue.

The state of Ohio is leasing 3.4 acres to Hallmark for 40 years. Hallmark has the option to build two more buildings on the site during those four decades.

“We can’t tell you how excited we are about this impetus that will kick off what we hope is the beginning of a lot of extraordinary things that will happen on our campus and in our community,” said YSU President Jim Tressel before the groundbreaking. “We’re doing more and more to attract great students and make sure there’s a great experience while they’re here. Any time you build something nice for them, it just gives them a little more confidence in choosing and staying at YSU.”

Hallmark has built student housing complexes at the University of Akron, Kent State University and Ohio University and “has had [our eye] on Youngstown State for many years,” said its president and CEO, Rick Kirk.

“We’re here because of [Tressel’s] vision and we appreciate the support of the board of trustees who elected us to take on this challenging task,” Kirk said. “It will be the first phase of what we think will be a multi-phase project. It’ll be very exciting, brand-new housing that’s contemporary to the needs of today’s students.”

Those needs, he explained, include Internet access, individual rooms and storage space.

“Typically, the old-fashioned dorm-style living was several students in a room, going down the hall with a towel on your waist to get a shower and shared spaces,” Kirk said. “This is real apartment-style living.”

While no prices have been determined, at last not publicly, Kirk said he expects monthly lease rates to be comparable to other sites near YSU, most likely between $575 and $600 per student.

The addition of a new on-campus residence will help students, said YSU Student Government Association President Ashley Orr.

“Many of the ‘best practices [lists]’ in higher education comment that if students are living on campus, they’re more engaged. And when they’re engaged, they’re doing better in the classroom, as well as professionally and socially,” she said. “If we get more students on campus, there are more students in organizations, leading events and taking on leadership roles.”

A student member of the board of trustees, Bryce Minter, noted that several students he’s talked to since the announcement are “absolutely thrilled to death.”

University Edge will provide another link between downtown and the university, Tressel noted, a relationship the school has been nurturing.

“To be able to add to that and link to our good folks in this neighborhood and downtown is exciting for us,” the university president said. “One thing we’ve talked about often with our students is that they’re always anxious for more opportunities for living quarters and a sense of community.”

Even so, much remains to be done in building the aura of a clearly defined campus, Tressel said, and that includes more student housing. Still, the new project is a milestone for YSU, which for decades had only the school-operated dorms as an on-campus option for students.

“It shows that we’re progressing. We’re going to be more of a community and give people a chance for people to be on campus and get involved,” Tressel said. “We need to have two or three facilities the size of this one before we really wrap the campus in and get that atmosphere that will be perfect for our students.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.