Dorm life now a charmed life

Two new, state-of-the-art residence halls and a dining hall that features six restaurants and a convenience store are attracting students at Southern Oregon University, university officials say.

Adroit Construction of Ashland wrapped up the combined 702-bed, suite-style residence halls and dining hall, dubbed "The Hawk," in the first week of September, and students begin moving in Sunday, said Tim Robitz, the school's housing director.

The residence halls include several types of accommodations: four-room suites with two shared bathrooms, a living room and some with kitchenettes; two-room semi-suites with one shared bathroom that can house either two or four students; and "super" single rooms, in which students can enjoy the privacy of a personal bathroom and bedroom while sharing a living room and kitchenette with one other student.

All of the rooms have bike hangers and are outfitted with beds, a couch, chairs, desks, dressers, side tables and a dial to control room temperature.

The top-of-the-line rooms come with bathtubs and showers, and all the kitchenettes feature marble countertops, because the university happened upon a great deal for the lavish stone, said Drew Gilliland, SOU director of facilities management and planning.

The various room options range from $7,214 to $8,580 per academic year, according to information provided by the university.

The new digs are a step below the university's Madrone Hall, completed in 2005, which has groups of four-person apartments in which students have their own bedrooms and share a living room, full kitchen and two bathrooms, Robitz said.

The new residence halls, called Shasta and McLoughlin — or Waii-Ka and Maka Yax, as the Native Shasta people referred to the mountains — are each four stories tall and loaded with hand-selected student and local art, stylish furniture, water-bottle fillers, recycling rooms, flat-screen TVs in the commons areas, free washers and dryers, and study rooms.

Waii-Ka — Shasta Hall — covers 105,039 square feet and includes 430 beds and 135 semi-suite, apartment-style rooms.

Maka Yax — McLoughlin Hall, at 89,433 square feet, includes 280 beds and 78 suite-style apartments. Freshman are not allowed to live in this dorm.

The residence halls received a silver rating under the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) program, Robitz said, and are on the cusp of gold level, which the university may reach eventually.

The LEED rating system, established by the U.S. Green Building Council, grades buildings based on such factors as indoor air quality, energy and water use, and the materials and resources that went into construction.

Six electric car chargers are in the parking lot adjacent to the new student village.

The halls are about 95 percent full, Robitz said, although many living options already have waiting lists, and he expects the remaining rooms to fill up before school begins on Sept. 30.

The new halls and dining hall replace the aging Cascade Hall, built in the 1970s east of Indiana Street. Cascade will be "repurposed" for faculty from the Science Building, which must undergo a seismic retrofit, said Robitz. When that's done, Cascade will be razed, with the site eventually being used for classrooms.

"Sixty percent of our utilities were going to Cascade Hall ... for 600 students. ... We're happy to be down here," Robitz said. "The students that are here right now are just screaming with excitement."

Student residential assistants moved into the halls on Sept. 6, Robitz said.

The new dining complex, which houses six "restaurants," one large prep kitchen and a convenience store, takes up 25,300 square feet and seats about 550, compared with Cascade's 350 seats, Robitz said.

"Everything is made to order, and it's all display cooking. It's all new," Robitz said.

Each of the six restaurants, or meal stations, include food options of traditional American grill, home-style cooking, sandwich deli, bakery and salad bar, as well as Italian and Mexican food.

Each food station offers about eight different entrees, which will rotate, said Reggie Speer, manager of SOU Dining for Minnesota-based A'viands Food and Services Management.

The sandwich deli uses only bread delivered straight from Jacksonville-based Rise Up Artisan Bread, Speer said.

"It's an increase of about 30 percent over Cascade when it comes to staff and menu options," Speer said. "It's not comparable, it's not even the same world. ... It's all from scratch every day, made right in front of your face."

The dining hall is open from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to midnight on Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. It is open to the public.

Although the dining hall was paid for mostly with state funding, it and the two residence halls were built on SOU-owned land that was leased to American Campus Communities, a Texas-based builder-manager of campus properties that financed the new residential halls for SOU.

The construction portion of the project cost an estimated $40 million of the university's $56.6 million investment agreement with American Campus Communities, Robitz said.

The remaining balance is made up of architect costs, improvements made along Siskiyou Boulevard, new signage, and other costs associated with the project, Robitz said. Most of the remaining $16.6 million is from the interest that will be generated over an extended period of time as SOU forks over annual bond payments to cover its ground-lease arrangement with American Campus Communities.

Adroit broke ground on the project in March 2012. The buildings were designed by SERA Architecture of Portland.

In January 2012, the Ashland Planning Commission unanimously approved the project after SOU agreed to make some minor changes in the design of the residence hall buildings, install additional pedestrian safety devices, and modify pedestrian routes.

In response, the pedestrian crossings at the intersection of Wightman Street and Siskiyou Boulevard were merged into one large crosswalk linking the SOU campus diagonally across the intersection.

Staring out over the quad between the new halls — where a large silver maple was retained and stands as a centerpiece for the newest part of campus — Gilliland tried to describe decrepit Cascade Hall in comparison with the new buildings.

"It's like driving a Studebaker compared (with) a Tesla."

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at

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