The other day, I pulled up to a stoplight at the intersection of Harden and Gervais streets. I noticed one corner was taken up with lots of construction. A banner strapped to the fence at the building site said “LUXURY” student apartments were being built.
Did I read that right?
Yep. I did. Luxury.
Now having spent several years of undergraduate academia in a dorm room with concrete-block walls, cracked linoleum floors, four women, two sets of utilitarian bunk beds, metal bureaus, a dingy bathroom down the hall and a pay phone in the stairwell that rang incessantly but was never answered because that meant having to go look for whoever the call was for … well, you get my gist here.
So I looked up this particular apartment complex online - curious to see what I had missed in terms of living arrangements as a co-ed in the late 1970s.
Apparently a whole lot.
The complex, set to open roughly a year from now, is described thusly on its website: “All residential units will come fully furnished with high-end finishes, private bathrooms in every bedroom, walk-in closets, full-size washers and dryers, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.”
The description continues: “Indoor amenities include a two-level multi-purpose room, business center, and a state-of-the-art fitness center with rock climbing wall, yoga and spinning studios, and fitness on demand.”
But wait! There’s more!
“The active courtyards will contain a resort-style pool, hot tub, fire pit, bocce ball …”
Now I don’t know about you and your collegiate experience – or, for that matter, any collegiate experiences of those parents in town this weekend for USC’s homecoming – but the only “amenities” my freshman dorm room came with were two sets of washers and dryers down in the basement, which were almost always on the blink.
I suppose our dorm matron – an elderly woman who stuck her head out the door of her room every so often … no, I take that back, she was not an amenity. Far from it.
So, what’s the deal with private-investment, luxury student apartments?
The State newspaper has reported in recent months on the student housing boom in Columbia. More recently, a website called Bisnow, reported on five trends “dominating” student housing design.
“There’s no question that students are demanding resort-style living,” said Greg Faulkner, president of Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects.
“These projects have Class-A finishes for the flooring, hardware, cabinets/countertops and appliances. They tend to have very high security and off the charts Internet bandwidth. Infinity edge pools, lazy river pools, yogurt service by the pool, cleaning/laundry and concierges that take care of other services are very common, too.”
And while back here at home, freshmen at the University of South Carolina are still required in their first year to live in dorms on campus – most of them upgraded dorms, mind you – what happens after that is, well, enlightening.
According to Kirsten Kennedy, director of university housing, USC has “6,700 bed spaces.” Eighteen percent of that number is “traditional style” dorm rooms; 40 percent, “suite style”; and 42 percent, “apartment style.”
“Our most expensive housing (four bedrooms/2 bathrooms in an apartment) costs $7,970 a year (2015-16 rates),” Kennedy said. “We are open for nine months, so that equates to $885 a month. The new off-campusapartments are running between $750 and $1,000 per month, but their contracts are generally for12 months. The total cost for those range between $9,000 and $12,000 annually. The other two options we have on campus are suite-style ($5,290 a year to $6,730 a year) and traditional style ($5,000 a year).”
There are more than 25,000 undergraduates at USC, so that leaves a whole lot of students living elsewhere. Like these luxury student apartment complexes.
Kennedy mentioned two things that are driving students toward these places.
One, unlike years ago, most students who come to college these days have not shared a bedroom or bathroom with a sibling while living at home.
“A lot of it centers around what they had at home,” Kennedy said.
And what did they have at home?
“Their own room and their own bathroom.”
Thinking about sharing a room and a bathroom with another person, Kennedy said, “causes (incoming freshmen) a lot of anxiety over the summer.”
Furthermore, Kennedy said, parents simply “don’t want their children to be disappointed” by their living quarters.”
My oh my.
I’m not sure I was ever disappointed by my living quarters at college; I was just glad to be there and far, far away from parental oversight.
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