Work begins on $20M SDSU housing project


BROOKINGS – Work started June 1 on preparing the sites of new townhouses as part of South Dakota State University’s effort to increase housing options for upperclassmen and graduate students.

A lot more is certain now in regard to the $20 million plan to construct a three-story apartment building and four to six townhomes on the southeast edge of campus. Most of the cost of the project will be paid through rent collected.

Two architect groups are working on the project: Architecture Incorporated, a Sioux Falls firm; and KWK Architects, a St. Louis, Missouri firm.

“It’s not atypical for a project to have one firm that designs, more or less, the in-house interpretation and then another firm, one that’s typically very close geographically to the building site, that finalizes the design and reconciles sort of the theoretical drawing to the actual site and goes to the details to get it to a bid package,” Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Wermedal said.

The expected total number of added beds through the apartment complex and the townhouses will be 204, and the university still plans to have them occupied and rented out for August 2019.

The apartments will face the intersection of Eighth Street and Jackrabbit Avenue, and the townhouses will be on the south side of the block, along Seventh Street.

“We’ll begin marketing those in the spring semester as students make decisions about where they want to live. We fully anticipate we’ll be rented up before we’re actually constructed up. That’ll be really important for our construction to go smoothly,” Wermedal said. “We have an experienced firm, Journey Construction out of Sioux Falls, as our general contractor. They’re very experienced in this kind of work and I don’t anticipate any issues with being able to occupy in August 2019.”

Designs almost done

At the moment, the buildings’ designs are almost completely finalized. The apartment complex, to be built at a cost of between $16.5 million and $16.9 million, will have 156 beds and be three stories tall.

The apartment building will contain one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units with an emphasis on four-bedroom units.

Individual units will contain kitchens, one bathroom (four-bedroom units would have two), a living room area and in-unit laundry. Each bedroom would also have its own lock for added security. These features will also be included in the townhouses.

“We intend to operate it as an apartment complex, not a residence hall, so there won’t be meal plans required for students living there, and there won’t be an RA on the floor,” Wermedal said.

There will be at least four townhouses, each containing three apartments, starting on the east end of Seventh Street. Two of the apartments would have two levels, and the third would be solely ground level and therefore totally handicap accessible.

These units will even be pet friendly, and bedrooms in the townhouse units would be slightly larger than those in the apartment building.

Contained in the bid package is an option to build a fifth and even a sixth townhouse if the bids come in favorably enough. Each townhouse is expected to cost $750,000.

One change made regarding the townhouses is simply the orientation of the buildings onsite. Rather than have them face the street, the four buildings will be pivoted so that pairs of them will face each other, with a sidewalk between them and going north to a parking lot and campus. This results in a bit of a homier feel, Wermedal said.

The target renter for the townhouse units are families and graduate students, with features like being pet friendly and offering a more homey residence a reflection of that.

Homes repurposed

Houses where the townhouses will be built have already been moved at the start of the month, but those houses aren’t being wasted.

“They’ve either been sold to someone who will relocate them or they’ll be repurposed to a state park or research facility that needs a housing structure. It’s really recycling on a building-level scale; none of it’s going to a landfill,” Wermedal said.

Work on preparing the site of the apartment complex should begin during the first week of July, with the married student housing on State Court to be demolished. Three of the six units will remain open for the upcoming school year, however.

It’s hoped that by November or December, most of the exterior work will be completed so that it can be sealed up and work on the interior can continue during the harsher winter months.

Keep them close

A project like this matters to SDSU because 5,000-6,000 students every year make decisions on where they’ll live for the schoolyear. This is one way to give those students another choice and keep them close to campus, Wermedal said.

“Prior to constructing this, the only other junior housing and senior housing you could have on our campus was sometimes Meadows wouldn’t be filled with sophomores,” Wermedal said, adding that Meadows North and South Apartments were built in 1994. “So from 1994 to now, almost 25 years, there hasn’t been any updates for junior and above housing on campus.”

SDSU hopes to grow its research programs, he said, “so an important student for us to attract are graduate students who might not have done their undergraduates at SDSU.”

Housing like this can be a way for those students to dip their toes into Brookings.

“For those folks to come from out of state to SDSU, they kind of like to land close at first and then maybe can move deeper into the community later on. This gives folks a nice opportunity to have a convenient near-campus landing place. Then, once they know the community, they can make a different choice,” he said.

Certainly, students and staff are excited about the project and that’ll only increase once they see the progress when they return this fall.

And with the location of the apartment building and the old housing it’s replacing, it’s also a great way to add curb appeal to one of campus’ busiest areas.

“I think it’s going to dress that corner up immensely. Prior to this complex, that corner of campus had some of our oldest and least attractive housing, even though it was still functional,” Wermedal said. “Now we’re going to have some of our best and most attractive housing at the institution’s front door.”

Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected].

Courtesy images:

Above, South Dakota State University has started preparing sites as part of the $20 million project to add housing options for upperclassmen and graduate students. The apartment complex, pictured with the northeast entrance facing the intersection of Eighth Street and Jackrabbit Avenue, will add 156 beds to campus housing, be three stories tall and is expected to cost between $16.5 million and $16.9 million. 

Below, at least four townhouses will be built along Seventh Street, south of the apartment complex. They’ll contain three apartment units in each and feature amenities conducive to families. As pictured, every two townhouses will share a sidewalk leading to the parking lot and campus.

Also pictured are aerial views of the overall housing project.