Coyote Village not your average dorm

University students moving into a dormitory seldom find all of the comforts of home.

In fact, Pinky Miller, assistant dean of students at USD, says the best way to describe a dorm is to turn the word into an acronym: Dreary Old Room of Mine.

There's nothing dreary about the new Coyote Village student housing, which was completed this summer in time for early-bird students to begin moving into its apartments on Aug. 1.

"A dorm is place where you just eat and you sleep. But this is a brand new residence hall, and a residence hall is a place where we eat, we sleep, we learn and we grow," Miller said. "With that in mind, we have eight students on staff who will serve as community advisors. They will be here to help students in whatever capacity they may need. We also have a hall director who is a master level student who will assist in that way as well.

"And then there's me, as the assistant dean of students. I also live in this building," she said.

Miller has been an assistant dean at USD for approximately seven months, and has a background rich in experiences in similar settings at several universities, including Miami University, the College of William & Mary, St. Peter's College in New Jersey and Georgia State University.

"We're more than half full and the building holds 546 students," she said earlier this month. "We're at 313, and I'm putting in applications as we speak. We wanted to be at least at half (occupancy), and we're past that, so we are very, very happy about that."

People who first walk into the building know immediately they are about to experience something pleasant and unexpected. The lobby contains gas fireplaces and big screen televisions

"The building is phenomenal; we're moving and shaking, the students are happy to be here, and we have  parents who have walked in here and they have just been amazed," Miller said.

This building holds sophomores, juniors, seniors and grad students.

"When they walk in and they see this enormous, beautiful building, and soon discover they can mill around and do as they please, Miller said. "We're still holding students accountable, to make sure they aren't tearing the place up. This facility is brand new and we want to make sure it stays in great condition."

Residents of Coyote Village, will, in a sense, get a sense of a small-town ambience. Their building, or perhaps more appropriately, their village will, for example, have its own convenience store.

"The store is called The POD, and is run by our food service, Aramark," Miller said. "POD stands for Provisions On Demand, and will be open from 8 a.m. to midnight to serve our students. It will have fresh fruit, organic foods, and sandwiches and things of that nature."

Students won't have a good excuse to let their dirty clothes pile up until they get a chance to return home so that their mothers can wash them. Coyote Village features a laundry room with 18 washers and 24 dryers.

"The great thing about that is we have something brand new called Laundry View, that allows students to go to their computers and look at the schematics of each washer and dryer," Miller said. "It will tell them, if they are in use, how many minutes until they are finished and will be available.

"And once students begin washing or drying a load of clothes, the machines will send them a text message or an e-mail telling them that their laundry is finished and that they can come pick it up."

Coyote Village also features a small theatre room, with a big screen and comfortable seating. Students can naturally watch movies, or cable television on the big screen. But the room's purpose isn't solely for entertainment.

"There is also computer access in that room, so if students need to practice their presentations for class, they can use it for that purpose," Miller said.

The South Dakota Board of Regents authorized The University of South Dakota in late May 2009 to go ahead with its plans to construct the new student housing project.

By the fall of 2009, the building was already taking shape, with construction workers milling about seven days a week. The new housing sits on 15.3 acres of land in close proximity to the DakotaDome where a trailer court was once located.

Regents gave university officials permission to acquire the land from the USD Foundation at a cost of $1.9 million. Immediately after approving the building project, the Regents also gave the go-ahead last year to the issuance of revenue bonds totaling $90.3 million to pay for the construction of Coyote Village and a new wellness center at USD, and several other new and renovated building projects at state-run education facilities across South Dakota.

The estimated construction cost of Coyote Village is $26.2 million, which calculates to be between $110 and $120 per square foot.

University and state officials worked with the Ambling University Development Group, which has offices in Atlanta and Valdosta, GA, to make the new housing a reality on the USD campus.

Ambling University Development Group is one of the nation's leading developers, builders and managers of university communities, with expertise in financing, construction and development of both on- and off-campus communities.

The Regents are took advantage of "Build America" bonds to help finance the housing project. The Build America bonds are part of a program included in the stimulus legislation enacted by Congress last year.

Sources of revenue to pay the construction costs will include student rent, parking permits and commission from convenience store sales.

Each unit in Coyote Village features a kitchenette with a microwave and refrigerator.  Apartment kitchens also include a stove and an oven.  Units are fully furnished with couches, chairs, desks, chairs,  

Students can enter into 12- and 10-month rental agreements. The 12-month rate for Coyote Village's super suite units are $541 per month per person, and $577 per month per person for apartment units.

The 12-month rate for the housing's larger four bedroom, two bath units are $453 per month per person for super suite units, and $484 per month per person for apartment units.

The new building is designed to offer more than comfort and shelter to USD students, she said.

"It is a place where students can be themselves, it is a place where students can live almost as if they are on their own in a sense, because when they leave college and they will likely have to live in an apartment building and pay rent, that sort of thing, so this is a real-life situation," Miller said.

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