What do students want in on-campus housing?
The answer is a paradox.
“On-campus residents want to feel as if they live off campus,” said Jules Breaux, UL Lafayette’s director of Housing.
The Heritage at Cajun Village should provide the ambience that students are seeking.
The University began constructing it in May.
The complex will include five buildings with 590 beds at the corner of Johnston and East Lewis streets. One of the buildings that will front that intersection will have 4,883 square feet of retail space on its first floor, with apartments on the second and third floors.
The Heritage mirrors the latest national trends in on-campus housing. It also reflects UL Lafayette students’ wishes.
The University conducted three rounds of market research to determine what students want in a living space. Two surveys in 2015 and a third in 2016 showed the same requirements among respondents.
“Today’s student is most concerned about convenience, safety, privacy and amenities,” Breaux explained. “They want a safe and convenient location. They want blazing fast internet and they want to cook their own meals.”
An article published earlier this year in a national real estate trade publication said students who live in on-campus housing also want “useful” amenities, such as common study spaces, and top-notch health and fitness facilities.
“That’s not to say today and tomorrow’s students aren’t still interested in more stylish features,” the article stated. “Luxury touches are still expected.” Those “must-haves” include swimming pools and grilling areas.
The Heritage has all that and then some.
It will offer students a choice of two-, three-, and four-bedroom units. Each furnished apartment will have a full kitchen, and washer and dryer. Meal plans will be offered but not required.
The complex’s outdoor recreation areas will include a pool, sand volleyball court and grilling pavilion. A clubhouse will feature a fitness center, study and game rooms, and a common area.
Breaux said The Heritage delivers “the off-campus experience on campus, just as students told us they wanted.”
Retail space, a first for University housing, also reflects a growing national trend in student living, Breaux said. “To whichever vendor is awarded this promising piece of real estate, an amazing opportunity awaits them for a unique connection to our institution.”
The Heritage is scheduled for completion by Fall 2019.
Plans include 632 parking spaces for residents, guests and retail customers. More than half of the spaces will be on the east side of Coulee Mine, which runs through the site. A new pedestrian bridge will connect the properties.
The complex sits on a 12-acre section that formerly was home to Youth Park. The University acquired the park in 2012 when it sold its former horse farm – now Moncus Park – to Lafayette Consolidated Government.
UL Lafayette can accommodate 3,190 students in its existing housing. The additional 590 beds will enable 22 percent of the University’s student population to live on campus.
Residents of the apartments will range from sophomores to graduate students.
Construction of the five buildings on the site is anticipated to cost $48 million. The University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors approved the expenditure of up to $105 million if the University chooses to expand the apartment complex.
The project will be financed through a partnership with the private, nonprofit Ragin’ Cajuns Facilities Inc.
The University’s partnership with Ragin’ Cajuns Facilities Inc.began in 2003. The late Robert Trahan, a Lafayette businessman and alumnus, founded the organization, which acts as a financial extension of the University.
Ragin’ Cajun Facilities Inc. maintains funds needed to design and build student housing and other University-related construction projects. It qualifies for tax-exempt status because it is a nonprofit. Bond funding enables the University to construct facilities without having to compete for limited state capital outlay funds.
The partnership was responsible for the 2003 construction of Legacy Park, the University’s first apartment-style housing, and the addition of 1,800 suite-style units in four residence halls between 2011 and 2012.
In 2010, the University began a renovation, replacement and construction program for its on-campus housing. It received UL System approval for up to 5,000 new beds in anticipation of the University’s continued growth.
RISE Real Estate, formerly Ambling University Development Group, is project developer of the new complex. Niles Bolton Associates is the architect, and The Lemoine Company is the general contractor. Each firm was on the project design and development team for the 2011-12 student housing renovation project.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of La Louisiane, The Magazine of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.