Columbus State dedicates $25 million dorm

If the officials who formed this public-private partnership wonder whether the $25 million investment that produced Columbus State University’s newest dorm was worth the price, freshman Teraycia Lovett can validate their decision.

Lovett, 18, graduated this year from Dougherty Comprehensive High School in Albany, Ga., where she was dually enrolled in Albany Technical College. When it came time to select where she would major in biology, she chose CSU over Kennesaw State and Savannah State — and Clearview Hall was a clear reason.

“I wanted somewhere new because I don’t like sleeping in things other people slept in,” she said. “These are new beds. … If I would go view dorms at other schools, I think this would be the best one.”

Lovett gushed about her campus home Thursday after CSU dedicated Clearview Hall, which has been open for three weeks. During the ceremony, officials also spoke about the new dorm’s positive impact.

On move-in day, CSU probably set a record for its Facebook page, reaching 33,975 people and approximately 12,800 clicks, 1,400 likes and 300 comments, said CSU vice president for student affairs Gina Sheeks.

“I don’t think we could have paid for a marketing campaign like that,” she said.

Sheeks shared one of those Facebook conversations between two CSU students. A commuter student told a Clearview resident, “I’m coming over to explore Clearview and see what it’s all about.” The Clearview resident responded, “Be careful. It’s the best place on Earth, and you may never leave.”

CSU President Chris Markwood called the three-year project’s vision coming to fruition part of a broader effort “to really engage the students, to engage them in our classrooms, to engage them in their learning environments, to engage them in their living environments.”

Markwood said this project wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership of University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, who has been “a beacon of change” and a friend of CSU, he said.

Huckaby, who will have been chancellor for 5½ years when he retires Dec. 31, said, “This facility represents the university system’s new approach to student housing.”

He credits Susan Ridley, the associate vice chancellor for fiscal affairs, for leading the development of the public-private partnership that created state-of-the-art facilities without any liability for USG.

Clearview is part of the $517 million contract University System of Georgia awarded in competitive bidding to Corvias Campus Living of Cary, N.C., to construct new dorms containing 3,683 beds and open this year, as well as manage existing dorms comprising another 6,195 beds for nine institutions during the next 65 years.

Under the agreement, the university continues to own the land while Corvias finances, constructs and maintains the building, and the state doesn’t spend any public money on the projects. Such a public-private partnership is possible because Georgia voters approved the referendum in November 2014 that allows private developers to be exempt from ad valorem taxes if they build housing or parking garages on state property and for USG students.

Markwood recalled his college dorm had one phone at the end of each hallway. Huckaby one-upped him and recalled his college dorm had one phone for a three-floor building. In comparison, Clearview has wired and wireless technology throughout the facility and enough high-speed Internet access for every resident to stream a Netflix movie on their device at the same time, said Sarah Secoy, CSU’s director of residence life.

“It really is transforming the socialization of the students,” she said.

“This will be a game changer,” Huckaby said. “It helps, I think, Columbus State University become a school of choice.”

The 121,000-square-foot, four-story building on Clearview Circle includes:

▪  540 beds for first-year students, plus a residence life professional and a faculty-in-residence apartment. Space remains for more students because only 457 of the beds are filled, Sheeks said.

▪  Student suites with two double-occupancy bedrooms and two bathrooms.

▪  Common areas for gaming and programming on each floor, along with study spaces in each wing.

▪  Two community kitchens, three community laundry rooms and one vending area.

▪  Space for the CSU Residence Life main office, which moved from the clubhouse at Courtyard I.

▪  Security card-only access through every door and into every elevator, plus monitoring by police and residence staff.

Lott + Barber of Savannah, Ga., designed Clearview Hall; Winter Construction of Atlanta built it.

Clearview’s 540 beds bring Columbus State’s total to 1,490. Enrollment last fall was 8,440; this year’s figure won’t be available until October, said CSU assistant vice president for university relations John Lester.