OC announces $33M student housing project


Oklahoma Christian University announced a comprehensive student housing project that will result in the construction of two new residence halls and a new student apartment complex, as well as major renovation of all existing student housing.

The new student residence hall and apartment projects will mark the university’s first new housing additions since 1978. Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Christian Board of Trustees approved the plan for the $33 million project, which will be financed by 30-year bonds and a fundraising campaign.

“This is strategic not just from a recruiting standpoint, though that is an important benefit of these plans. One of the strategic multi-year goals identified by the Strategic Vision Committee is to enhance and better integrate the living and learning experience of all those who are part of the OC family. Students spend a major part of their college years in student housing, not just in the classrooms, the University Center or other places on campus. So it has strategic importance to us because we strive for a high-quality, holistic experience for all of our students,” OC president Dr. Mike O’Neal said. “Because we love our students as if they were our own children, we care about the quality of the housing we provide to them. This university is about training the whole person. It’s about our whole life, not just what we do in the classroom, not just what we do in academics. It’s about the kind of people we are – the kind of lives we live and what we do 24/7.”

Today, the university held a public event to announce and to celebrate the housing plans, including the new residence halls, scheduled to be completed in time for the fall 2005 semester. Groundbreaking and construction have already begun on the new apartment complex, slated to be ready for occupancy by the spring 2005 semester. The new residence halls are scheduled to be completed in time for the fall 2005 semester.

Earlier this spring, renovation work began on two residence halls, Fails Hall (men) and Tinius Hall-East (women). Fails Hall will be ready to be reoccupied by the start of the fall 2004 semester. Tinius East will be completed in time for the spring 2005 semester. Renovation will begin on the seven other existing dormitories and on the existing phases of the Heritage Heights student apartments upon completion of the new construction over the next 18 to 24 months.

“This is certainly the largest and one of the most important projects in the university’s history,” said Alfred C. Branch, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Oklahoma Christian. “We have a great team in place to make the comprehensive plan a reality over the next three years for the benefit of our students for years and years to come.”

The project is under the direction of Trammell Crow Company, with Richard R. Brown Associates handling the architectural designs. Smith & Pickel Construction is executing the renovation of the existing residence halls and the central mechanical plant. ProCon LLC is constructing the new apartment complex. Frankfurt-Short-Bruza provided engineering on the central mechanical plant.

“This is one of the more exciting projects I’ve worked on,” said Larry Wallis, director of construction and development for Trammell Crow Company. “I’m just elated to be involved in the transformation of this campus, to take it from a state that hasn’t changed much and to help make a significant improvement that will increase the number of students who come to OC for a Christian education.”

Ultimately, the project will increase OC’s on-campus housing capacity from its current 1,302 double-occupancy beds to 1,500 beds, up to 15 percent of which will be in single-occupancy rooms as the new projects will incorporate more suite environments. A new central mechanical plant will enable heating and cooling control in each individual dormitory room. Each room in these “smart dorms” will have both wired and 802.11g wireless access to the university network, email and the Internet. The university already features campus-wide wireless access as part of a program in which every fulltime student receives a wireless laptop.

“Our effort is to make student housing consistent in quality with what has happened on the rest of the campus. It’s a beautiful campus, but the housing hasn’t kept pace with other improvements through the years,” said Richard Brown, managing principal of the Richard R. Brown Associates architectural firm. “We’ve tried to provide a living/learning experience. In designing the new residence halls, we are incorporating group study areas within the new dorm environment and three student lounges on each floor where students can watch television and have social interaction. There will be laundries on every floor. We want to provide an experience that is comfortable for students and also to provide amenities that are state-of-the-art and market-oriented.”

The project will dramatically change the landscape of the campus, enhancing the aesthetic quality of OC’s on-campus housing and the university grounds in general. The design for the new residence halls will serve as the architectural capstone on the west end of the campus, featuring a 52-foot tower and a covered entrance with three-story atrium over the reception area that is similar to the appearance of a nice hotel. In addition to the substantial upgrade in student housing, the plans for the residence halls will include “hotel rooms” available to visiting parents.

“Our students are excited because the dorms and apartments are their homes away from home,” OC dean of students Neil Arter said. “They look forward to new and improved areas, and a greater emphasis on what they want and need in their living areas. That’s what we’ve been able to do in this process.”

The university has engaged OC’s current and prospective students throughout the planning by seeking student input through focus groups and surveys. The university made available the architectural renderings and schematics for students to review and set up mock dormitory rooms to give students a “sneak peek” at interior room plans under consideration.

“I believe God has blessed us with a combination of factors that are going to enable this project to be successful,” O’Neal said. “He has sent trustees, administrators, faculty and staff members who recognize the strategic importance of this project at this particular time in the life of Oklahoma Christian. But, along with that, he has sent low interest rates. Current occupancy rates have allowed us to take some housing off-line for renovation on a staggered schedule. He has sent us contractors who are trying to squeeze as much out of our construction dollars as possible. He has sent us advisors and counselors who are helping us in the design of the facilities and helping us to use our money in the best possible way. Recent gifts have given us the financial strength and momentum to undertake this massive project, and I am confident He will send benefactors who will help us with the $2 million incremental funding needed to accomplish this vision.”