The new residence hall currently being built is set to be complete in Fall 2012.
As a college student, Facilities Director of Planning and Design Tom McCreesh said he lived in a “cinderblock room with sliding doors.”
However, the $147.4 million residence, retail and dining complex currently under construction between Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Oxford Street on Broad Street will be anything but the dorm room “block” McCreesh lived in.
“The overriding goal was to provide a state-of-the-art residence hall for students,” McCreesh, who has worked at Temple for six years, said. “This is not the Temple of old.”
The 24- and eight-story residence halls replacing the now-demolished University Services Building will provide between 1,000 and 1,500 additional beds and will alleviate some of the university’s housing needs as well as provide additional dining and retail space.
Slated to be the tallest building in North Philadelphia and complete for the Fall 2011 semester, the complex – known as the Southern Gateway to Main Campus – will also host a to-be-determined four- or five-star restaurant at the base of the high-rise.
Anthony Wagner, the executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, said the decision to tear down the USB and replace the surface parking lot with the complex came after taking a “hard look at the buildings and properties” on Main Campus and identifying opportunities.
“We didn’t want to put a dime into any renovation of [USB],” Wagner said. “It was an old, nasty building. When we went to the community and said the first projects we’re going to do are student housing and parking – that was music to their ears. Because what have they been telling us? Bring our students out of the neighborhoods. Temple should be building more housing.”
Representing a shift away from traditional, community-style living such as in Johnson and Hardwick residence halls, the unnamed residence halls will have approximately 32 beds per floor and inside access to a dining hall as part of a three-story wing that will connect to the high-rise.
The dining hall – to be Sodexo-run and most likely cafeteria-style – will include outdoor cafe seating and will be located on the second floor of the three-story space. The first floor touching down to Broad Street is set to house a “Taste of Philly” dining/retail section, which will showcase city-favorites, such as cheesesteaks and pretzels. Potential meeting and event space will round out the third floor.
Each suite in the residence halls will include two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a small kitchenette and a washer and dryer. An additional space between the bedrooms could potentially be sectioned off into a third bedroom.
Two-story, high-glass edifices will serve as windows to community space on every other floor.
“In most of our residence halls, there’s no real space for people to congregate,” McCreesh said. “They’re either meeting in the hallways or in one room. Since every two floors are tied together, it will give the floors a sense of comraderie.”
Currently, on-campus housing is limited to freshmen and sophomores, with the exception of upperclassmen who may be athletes or students with special needs.
Though Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of University Housing and Residential Life Michael Scales said Temple houses approximately 80 percent of incoming freshmen, late applications for housing force some students to find alternatives. Despite housing approximately 1,300 sophomores per year, Scales said housing generally has to turn away some sophomore applicants.
Adding there are no plans for a change in policy yet, Scales said an increased number of beds could lead to selective housing of juniors and seniors in the future.
“As this [plan] develops, we may even have more of a demand,” Scales said.
The scope of the 20/20 plan proposes additional housing projects down the line, including replacing Peabody Hall, additional housing on the west side of Broad Street between Norris and Diamond streets and building a residence hall across from Temple Towers at 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, where a surface parking lot currently sits.
Scales said sometimes the lack of on-campus housing for freshmen and sophomores revolves around the type of housing available.
Community-style living in Johnson, Hardwick and Peabody residence halls are not as desirable, Scales said.
“If you look across this country, an overwhelming number of projects being built [on college campuses] are moving to apartments and suites,” Scales said, noting the student demand for suite-style living tends to be the strongest on Main Campus.
In order to visualize what was best for Temple, Scales and other university officials took trips to Harvard University, Boston University, Northeastern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alongside representatives from MGA Partners Architects. Dan Kelley, the principle architect of South Gateway project, is a graduate of Harvard’s School of Design.
“One of the ways to get inspired is to look at what other people have done,” Scales said. “You learn what mistakes not to make and what are good concepts.”
Scales said he took interest in the integration of retail spaces, green concepts, such as green roofing, and the color schemes used on all the Temple campuses, but apartments and suites with “incredible views” stuck out to him.
Aside from the neighborhood-like atmosphere of the residence halls, McCreesh said looking out to Philadelphia through the glass windows is one of his favorite aspects of the project.
“Looking out into this park-like atmosphere with these views – it’s a sanctuary, if you will,” McCreesh said.
The green space between the high-rise and mid-rise will be accessible through Liacouras Walk and by way of a ramp in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Students will be able to sit out and relax and throw a Frisbee around – if they still do that,” McCreesh said.
Trees, lounging grass, flowerbeds and a potential water structure will decorate the green space, which will sit atop the below-the-surface parking meant for retail parking and loading docks.
While the budget for the project is set firm at $147.4 million, the cost of housing has not been finalized, Scales said.
“Based on the amenities that will be provided, the cost will probably be in-line with Temple Towers,” he added.
Depending on the setup, the cost at Temple Towers ranges from $3,684 to $3,984 per semester.
Despite some students’ decisions to move off campus due to cost factors, Scales said the university bases its prices on the cost of housing in the area as well as benchmarking the cost of room and board with other area universities, such as Penn State University, Villanova University, the University of Delaware, La Salle University, the University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s University, Drexel University and Rutgers University.
“When you’re comparing Temple, we are actually the second cheapest when it comes to housing and meal plans,” Scales said.
The cheapest, Scales said, is Penn State.
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The sub headline to this article originally read that the residence hall would open in the Fall 2011. It will open in Fall 2012.