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Ground is broken - finally - on student housing at USF Sarasota-Manatee

USFSM Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook says the student center/residence hall will help the campus shed the moniker of being a "commuter college."

Long wished-for student housing is closer to becoming a reality for the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus.

While a ceremonial groundbreaking was held Wednesday on a $42 million housing and student center, site work officially began last week.

The building will house about 200 students, with opening planned for the start of the fall 2024 semester.

“This project represents a significant milestone in the University of South Florida’s history and signals our commitment to the expansion of the Sarasota-Manatee campus,” USF President Rhea Law said.

“We’ve made it a priority to increase student housing at USF because we know that living on campus can raise academic performance, support student retention and create a stronger sense of community. This new facility will transform the student experience by providing more opportunities to get involved, connect with peers and build long-lasting relationships.”

University officials said the six-story building would include 68,000 square feet of student housing on the upper four floors. They would include 70 double-occupancy bedrooms and 60 single-occupancy bedrooms in a variety of apartment-style configurations, with shared bathrooms, living spaces, and kitchens or kitchenettes.

Group of people wearing hard hats and holding shovels stand outside. The shovels are set into two ceremonial sets of sandboxes with the words "student center and residential housing" on them. A sign with the words "here we grow" and the rendering of a building, along with balloons, are between them.
While the formal ground-breaking for the new residence hall/student center at USF Sarasota-Manatee was Wednesday, March 1, construction work started a week earlier.

It would also have a 32,000 square foot student center that includes a bookstore, dining options, lounges and meeting rooms and offices for USF World, student government and other organizations.

Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook said Wednesday that the first major expansion of the campus since the opening of the Crosley Campus Center 17 years ago, “changes the dialogue about USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus in our community and beyond.

“The student center and residence hall will help recruit and retain students, and infuse students’ college experience with a new vibrancy that will allow the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus to forever shed the moniker of being a ‘commuter college,’” she added.

During its almost 50 year history, the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, like the Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses, have had that label. But while Tampa and St. Petersburg have added housing — with nearly 6,500 and 900 students living on campus respectively at the start of the 2022-23 school year — students at Sarasota-Manatee have continued driving to school or looking for nearby apartments or other rentals.

The $42 million price tag is an increase from the approximately $39 million cited when the project was approved by the state Board of Governors last September. At the time, plans said USF will contribute about $16.5 million. The rest will come from the sale of up to $30 million in bonds through the USF Financing Corp.

The bonds would be repaid with revenue from the USF Housing System, as well as about $200,000 a year in activity and service fees collected on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.

The project is part of a two pronged major campus expansion. USF officials are also planning on adding a $62 million, 75,000-square-foot Nursing/STEM building near the center.

It would double the size of the campus' nursing program, increase the number of teaching and clinical labs and research facilities, and add potential residents for the new housing project.

Side-by-side renderings of a work area with a spiral staircase and a laboratory.
USF Sarasota-Manatee
In addition to the new residence hall/student center, USFSM plans to build a new a Nursing/STEM building, seen here in artist renderings.

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