A multiphase building project at St. Mary’s University will replace seven residence halls with a contemporary living community called The Village at St. Mary’s, placing further emphasis on a well-rounded college experience.
Construction on the first phase – a 232-bed, suite-style hall in the southwest quadrant of campus – will begin in June, with a ceremonial groundbreaking April 26.
“We want to show our students and potential students the virtues of our Catholic and Marianist background and academic programs,” said President Thomas Mengler, J.D., “but we also want to promote St. Mary’s as a place where students live and grow into adulthood. This is much more than just student housing.”
The first new hall will be primarily for juniors and seniors. Shared amenities include an outdoor swimming pool and a grill station/picnic area. There should be no loss of occupancy in any phase of the project.
Phase 1 will be completed by August 2017, followed by the demolition of Adele and Archbishop Flores halls, where Phase 2 construction eventually will occur. Subsequent phases will begin only after feedback is gathered, to ensure the University is meeting the needs of students and their families.
A redevelopment schedule – construction, then demolition – will ensue for the five remaining halls (Cremer, Donohoo, Frederick, Leies and Lourdes). Five other residence halls (Chaminade, Dougherty, Founders, Marian and Treadaway) will be renovated as part of this new vision for St. Mary’s on-campus housing.
Mengler said the goal is to keep students living on campus longer, providing a stronger community environment that’s responsive to the University’s mission. With a variety of amenities – central community building, pool, greenspace, sports courts, amphitheater – the project will respond to students’ contemporary lifestyle demands.
“Housing is a critical component of recruitment and retention,” said Tim Bessler, Ed.D., Interim Associate Provost for Student Development and Dean of Students. “Prospective students evaluate college options based on their field of study, but their perception of campus life tends to weigh heavily in their decision-making process.”
The University has maintained high student housing occupancy rates because of the convenience of living on campus and the quality of the living-learning experience. However, most halls have fallen behind the evolving expectations of students and parents. Most incoming freshmen live on campus, but housing options beyond the first year lack the features desired by upperclassmen.
“These buildings are reaching the end of their useful lives,” Mengler said. “We want to offer students a more exciting on-campus experience. And as we rethink residence life, we want to draw people together.”
What makes it a “contemporary living community”?
Suite-style residences centered around shared amenities such as a pool, sports courts, grill stations, picnic areas, an amphitheater, and a community center, which would include food service, meeting rooms, activity areas and satellite offices for student services like Residential Life, Information Technology, University Ministry and University Police.
Where will the first hall go?
The 90,000 square-foot residence hall will be built in the southwest corner of campus in the open area next to Leies Hall. As new halls are built, old ones will be demolished. This will ensure there is no loss of occupancy for student residents throughout the project.
What happens to the Outback?
The area formerly referred to as the Outback will now be known as The Village of St. Mary’s and will include all residence halls south of Rattler Drive.
Why just upperclassmen? What about freshmen?
Most freshmen live in Founders Hall, which was built in 2009. Founders residents – and residents of all existing residence halls – also will have access to shared amenities, such as the pool.
How long will it take to replace all seven halls?
Possibly by 2030, depending on a number of factors. The first hall is scheduled to be completed by August 2017.
Where will the University get funding for the project?
$25 million in financing is being sought for the first phase of construction and for current residence hall renovations.
Will there be new dining options in The Village at St. Mary’s?
Vending will be increased with the initial phase, and there will be discussions with Aramark about the possibility of a new dining option in a future phase.
How many students live on campus now?
Nearly 57 percent of about 2,300 undergraduate students currently live on campus. The goal is to have 75 percent living on campus. After phase 1 is complete, the capacity of on-campus student housing will be 1,518.
Will room rates go up?
Rates will gradually increase to the level of peer institutions’ rates. Currently, St. Mary’s on-campus housing costs about 22 percent less than the weighted average of housing at seven comparable private universities in the region.
Who is the architect?
Art Bartels, of ESG Architects. Eric Kruse, of the Pegasus Group, is the consultant. Ryan Companies leads the design-build team.
St. Mary's University, founded in 1852, is the first institution of higher learning in San Antonio and the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest. It offers 75 programs, including doctoral and law programs, and has a diverse student population of about 3,800 of all faiths and backgrounds. Its vision, as a Catholic and Marianist liberal arts institution, is to become one of the finest private universities in the region, a gateway for graduates to professional lives as ethical leaders in Texas, the nation and the world.