USF to Build New Residence Hall

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Brian Healy
Staff Writer

There will be a new addition to the growing collection of real estate holdings under the USF name with the opening of a new undergraduate residence hall. The dorm, which has yet to be named, will be situated atop Lone Mountain, replacing ROTC’s Underhill building that sits next to USF’s tennis courts. Once construction on the student residence is completed, USF will offer seven on-campus living options, with the other six being: Fromm, Gillson, Hayes-Healy, Phelan, Loyola Village, and Lone Mountain.

Slated to open in time for Fall 2019, the new residence hall will feature two principal buildings, currently titled East building and West building, with an underground garage at its base where garbage, recycling, and deliveries will occur, away from neighbors so they will be shielded from those noises. The garage will also provide limited parking availability to faculty and staff, as well as bike racks for students.

The school, however, is still holding out on scheduling a date for breaking ground on the project. The application process for a building permit and land use entitlement can be unpredictable, and must be under “compliance with the San Francisco Planning Code, San Francisco’s General Plan, zoning regulations, and relevant design guidelines,” as stated on the Planning Department’s website.

Elizabeth Miles, who manages USF’s institutional master planning, believes it’s nearly the only obstacle the school might encounter since everything else is going according to plan. “The entitlement process through San Francisco Planning Department is very thorough and it can [take] more time than one might otherwise expect, but we understand that and plan accordingly […] Ideally construction might start in August of 2017,” said Miles.

Miles also facilitates the University’s work with the neighbors on the project, which includes many of meetings tracking their concerns, and working with the developer to find ways to address those concerns. USF has already hashed things out with neighbors by compromising on many of the issues raised such as: noise pollution coming from the residence hall, character and scale of the building, architectural similarity, construction impacts, and compliance with seismic guidelines, among others.

The current design for the building proposes 606 beds divided into 155 units in a suite style format with either four, one-bedroom suites or two, two-bedroom suites, similar to Loyola Village’s layout. Each suite will have a kitchen and a small living area, with proposed amenities including two enclosed courtyards which will be landscaped, possibly with outdoor fountains, benches, and a fitness loop. Current plans also include: a fitness room, music rooms, a TV room, a computer room, study rooms, and laundry. Miles added, “We are working on a variety of sustainability strategies in terms of energy, smart design, and water conservation.”

Former President of the University, Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J., oversaw the opening of Loyola Village in 2002, as well as the renovations to Fromm and Phelan during his tenure as president of the University. Since the new residence hall will only house continuing students, Privett believes that the residence hall will provide vital support to students who are made to look for off-campus housing after their first year.

“The residence hall responds to a need for additional student housing and recognizes that living on campus greatly enhances the student experience and develops a strong sense of community,” said Privett who also thinks the new residence hall will help alleviate some of the high demand for housing in San Francisco’s real estate market. “Given the current skyrocketing costs of housing in San Francisco, living on campus not only becomes more attractive for students but it also takes students out of the housing market and thus opens up space for the city’s non-student population. A new residence hall responds to USF and City needs — it’s a win/win for all parties.”

ASUSF Senate Executive President Laureano Figueroa, considers the new residence hall an investment and a sign that the school is committed to creating long-term relationships with students. “One of the reasons students don’t come here, or transfer out after a year, is because they know that after their first year they’re not guaranteed housing and that hurts the University in terms of who actually enrolls here,” said Figueroa. Only 27 percent of the student body is currently housed in on-campus living residences, with most of the spots being occupied by freshman and transfer students.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Management, Michael London, is in charge of all facilities on campus, and whose duties include supervising the project management team for the new residence hall who work with the developer and builder to get the proper approvals, as well as getting the project constructed.

London’s mastery of infrastructure allied with the expertise of master planning architects made it possible to decide that the west side of Lone Mountain, the location of ROTC’s Underhill building, is the most viable site for a new dorm. “This site was favored because it had already been developed in a previous iteration rather than disturb a previously undeveloped site,” said London.

Still, the fact remains that ROTC will be having to relocate, and London said that plans are already underway to accommodate them somewhere else around campus. “I believe that ROTC will be relocated in the general vicinity of Koret as they are large users of that facility for their programmatic needs,” said London. The tennis court adjacent to ROTC will also have to be relocated, with plans currently putting it somewhere along Anza Street, although London believes this is simply a placeholder while the school explores other venues that could support a USF sponsored tennis court. “We are looking at partnering on an effort to improve the 17 courts that are currently in Golden Gate Park,” said London.

Even though current USF students will not get to enjoy the convenience of a brand new residence hall, they will get to deal with the distractions that accompany construction projects. London, however, assures students that the impact will be minimal to those taking classes at Lone Mountain and residents at Loyola Village, especially since the construction site will be accessed from the eastern end of Lone Mountain’s main drive.

Miles reaffirms London’s position that the interruptions coming from the construction site will be a non-issue. “USF has a comprehensive set of contractual requirements for its contractors that place limits on work hours, construction traffic, noise, dust, workmen’s behavior & commuting,” said Miles, who also mentioned that after some neighbors raised concerns about pile driving, USF agreed to avoid the noisy method of construction for the new dorm.

Privett acknowledges that there is a high level of difficulty to getting the residence hall erected since managing so many essential components of the project can be overwhelming. “A project of this size requires the cooperation and coordination of many moving parts: facilities, student life, academic affairs, residential life, city planning, architects, to name a few of them,” said Privett, who also thinks it is well worth it for the benefit of the students. “There is no better, long term investment in the future than making Jesuit higher education accessible to all deserving students, regardless of their financial capacity.”

Photo courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography

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