YSU Breaks Ground for Bookstore, Apartments
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – On a night where Youngstown State University commemorated its first football national championship, President and former coach Jim Tressel did some reminiscing.
Not just about football, but what the university as a whole was like 25 years ago
“We were just dreaming of having a rec center someday or getting an indoor facility. We were just trying to build dormitories because we didn’t have enough of those either,” Tressel said after helping to break ground on the second phase of the University Edge complex Saturday evening.
The project includes a 220-bed student apartment building and a stand-alone Barnes & Noble that will serve as the campus bookstore. Both are scheduled to be finished for the start of the fall 2017 semester. The first phase, a 162-bed apartment building, opened in August.
Tressel and other speakers at the groundbreaking said YSU is working to remove the stigma of being a commuter campus, where students drive in, go to class and drive home, spending as little time as possible on campus. By having more student housing near the university and a bookstore that offers study space and a cafe, it could drive students to stick around longer.
“This is the start of a ripple effect for getting rid of the stigma that this is a commuter campus,” said Student Governement Association Vice President Gabriella Gessler. “If there’s housing around campus, then students will be more compelled to stay on campus, stay engaged and establish more of a life outside the hours of classes.”
While student housing is welcome at YSU, the biggest change from the University Edge complex, along Fifth Avenue on the southern side of campus, will be the bookstore. In addition to serving as the campus bookstore – offering books for both classes and recreation, school supplies and YSU apparel – it will also feature a cafe, convenience store and reading area.
John Chaump, regional manager for Barnes & Noble College, noted that when executives from the bookstore chain met with university officials, there was an emphasis on YSU becoming a destination, connecting the college of the rest of the community.
“That’s what we’re tailored to do,” he said. “We’ll have all the things you’d see at a regular Barnes & Noble and that’s what makes it a connector piece between the community and Youngstown State.”
Barnes & Noble College operates about 750 campus bookstores nationwide, bringing specialized expertise to the YSU store, which was operated by the university until this year.
“We know the market. We know the ways to find affordable options for students,” Chaump said. “We have tremendous reach and buying power because we partner with 750 campuses to find used books and get them to each campus.”
Having the bookstore on the corner of Lincoln and Fifth Avenues. rather than in Kilcawley Center, noted Student Government President Tyler Miller-Gordon, also frees up additional space for students to use in the building that they spend most of their free time in.
“Kilcawley Center is a somewhat dated building and there isn’t a lot of student space. The student services are in other buildings,” he said. “That space will to be able to expand into something else and offer more to students.”
With the exception of being a larger building, Phase II of the University Edge apartments will be the same as the first project that opened before the school year began, said Hallmark Campus Communities President Rick Kirk. Seeing the building open at 100% occupancy, the developer said, is what drove the fast start to Phase II.
“It’s been a nice addition of quality housing and I know, from my experience in this business, that when you have a nice living environment, it makes the whole college experience better,” Kirk said.
There are no talks, he said, for further projects between Hallmark and YSU at the moment.
When the second phase is completed in just under a year, more than 400 students will be living at University Edge. Combined with construction projects on Lincoln and Wick avenues, other apartment complexes and developments downtown, Tressel said that YSU is steadily moving toward being a destination campus.
“We want our students to have a great experience while they’re here. They have to study and go to laboratories and all that, but they have to live and get a cup of coffee or read a book or hang out,” he said. “As you listen to what’s going on down Phelps and Hazel [streets] all the way down to the river and the amphitheater, it’s all tied together. This could be a special college town and it’ll take work, but that’s where we’re headed.”
Pictured: Representatives from Hallmark Campus Communities, Fortress Real Estate Co., Youngstown State University and the city of Youngstown, break ground on Phase II of the University Edge complex.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.