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USF St. Petersburg Takes First Step To Add New Residence Hall

USF St. Petersburg
USF St. Petersburg's University Student Center, the campus' second student residence hall, opened in 2012. It may soon be joined by another hall as early as August 2019.

The goal, according to school officials, is for USF St. Petersburg to have 10,000 students enrolled by 2025. But to turn the campus from a commuter school to one where students live and study is going to take the addition of residence hall beds - a lot of them.

The school is taking steps towards the addition of a new residence hall by seeking out a suitor who will finance and build a facility under a public-private partnership (P3).

Currently, conditions on USFSP are cramped to say the least.

Figures from the university show housing occupancy is at 130%, with almost 700 students occupying two residence halls and rooms rented by the University in a nearby Hilton.

As designed, Resident Housing One, which opened in 2006, and the University Student Center, which opened six years later, are meant to house a total of 550 students.

"We're tripling (occupancy) rooms and doing the best we can to accommodate students," USFSP Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska said. "We are at our maximum."

USFSP's 10-year Master Plan Update unveiled last year aims at meeting projected needs by having 1,400 beds - a total addition of 850 beds - and 30,000 square feet of dining space at USFSP by 2025.

"So I think once this project is completed, we will be looking to the future for the next phase as well," Wisniewska said.

"I think having more residential students will not only increase our enrollment goal, but it will significantly enhance the campus life experience for students," she added. "I think that will lead directly to greater retention and graduation rates, which is job number one for us."

Credit University of South Florida
University of South Florida
Preliminary artist rendering of the new USF student housing village currently under development on the Tampa campus.

The P3 that will finance and build the hall would be similar to one entered into with developer Capstone-Harrison for the $133 million housing village under development on USF's Tampa campus.

"The (Florida) Legislature feels that colleges and universities should be in a business of education, not housing, and the debt for housing should be absorbed not by the state, but by private entities," Wisniewska said. "So I think a P3 is more feasible than a bonding option for us."

A project concept designed for the university by program management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey also suggests the addition of more on-campus parking, including the expansion of a seven-story parking garage across from the planned residence hall site on 6th Avenue South, between 3rd and 4th Street South.

The plan to begin searching for a private partner was approved by the USF Board of Trustees during a meeting last Thursday.

According to a timeline in the conceptual plan, the goal is to have potential partners submit their plans by the end of March 2017, with a selected partner being approved by the Trustees at their meeting scheduled for June 1.

The hope is that the State University System Board of Governors would sign off on a new partner when it holds its regular meeting later that month on USF's Tampa campus. Such approval is required before USF can enter into an agreement.

Construction would then begin in May 2018, with the hall being opened for students at the start of the fall semester in August 2019.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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