University of South Dakota President James Abbott stood in the lobby of Coyote Village, USD's newest student housing complex on Thursday, Sept. 2, and simply took everything in.
The new building's spacious lobby was filled with people, many from the Vermillion community and many from afar, who were viewing the building and all of its amenities for the first time.
Many were seeing concepts in modern student housing that were unexpected. Coyote Village resembles a four star hotel rather than student housing, with amenities that are unheard of when one describes typical university living quarters.
Construction of the large complex began less than a year ago, and students were able to begin moving into its various suites in early August.
Thursday noon, the "official" opening of Coyote Village was marked with a public reception and ribbon cutting.
"I've had some lousy ideas in my time," Abbott told the crowd of well-wishers Thursday. "This is not one of them."
He praised the work of Ambling University Development Group (AUDG), which has offices in Atlanta and Valdosta, GA, for making the new housing facility a reality on campus in such a short amount of time.
AUDG 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 USD president also thanked the USD Foundation for its role in helping construct Coyote Village.
"The Foundation assisted us significantly after buying the property (where Coyote Village is located) before we even knew how we were going to do it, or how it would be handled," Abbott said.
"We all learned that with the right team, a project of this magnitude can be developed in the state of South Dakota on time, on budget and with the level of quality that you see here today," said Curt Fowler, vice president of AUDG.
Fowler offered thanks, in brief remarks before Thursday's ribbon cutting, to Abbott and USD officials, to the USD Foundation, and to the many contractors and planners that all played a role in designing and constructing the housing complex.
"Thanks for believing in a group of folks from the state of Georgia who came up here with an idea on how to do student housing differently," he said. "We hope we made you proud."
The official groundbreaking ceremony for Coyote Village was held less than 12 months ago, Fowler said, and he noted that at that time, there were a few people who doubted the facility would be completed on time.
"A lot of people doubted that we could deliver on the schedule that we promised, but we did," he said. "Thank you so much for this opportunity. We can not wait to start our next project in South Dakota."
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 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.
"It feels great. We haven't had housing like this anywhere in the state, and we are especially pleased that this great Coyote Village is here in Vermillion to give students just one more choice. We want our students to have plenty of choices and clearly, the students are voting with their feet; this is a very popular place," Abbott told local media following the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Coyote Village is unique, Abbott said, because it is essentially an apartment complex that contains features that most students would deem a necessity – such as a kitchen and laundry facility – and things that rate more on students' want list rather than need list – such as a big screen movie theatre.
"This really is not a dorm; this really is suite-style living," he said. "It's really a great living situation, and our students are clearly happy here. It is already a great success and we expect it to be even a greater success in the future."
One of the main reasons USD decided to construct the new housing, the USD president said, was to meet the growing the needs of students. He recalled that when he attended the university four decades ago, it wasn't uncommon to have four students share a small dorm room with only two electrical outlets.
"That wasn't a big deal back then," he said. "Students who come to USD now expect the residential situation on campus to replicate something like what they have at home. This is nicer than many homes, and the greatest thing about it is that this is not a taxpayer situation. This building has been paid for by revenues from those students who rent the apartments, so I think it is a great win-win situation for our students and our university."
Coyote Village has 175 units with 550 beds, including two- and four-bedroom options for students. Each fully furnished unit also has 42-inch HD televisions and hardwired Internet access to each single-occupied bedroom while wireless Internet access is available throughout the building.
The complex is located just south of the DakotaDome on the USD campus. Additional amenities include a 15-seat theater room complete with a 110-inch screen and surround sound system; a gaming room complete with Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii gaming systems; a business center; a central laundry facility; a convenience store; and multiple lounge areas for students.
Apartment units feature full kitchens with refrigerators, a microwave, range stove and a sink while super suite units are equipped with kitchenettes, including full-sized refrigerators, a microwave and a sink.
Students moved in to the $26.8 million, 195,708 square-foot residence hall last month as construction was completed this summer. Coyote Village and all new construction projects at USD, major renovations included, are designed with sustainability in mind and meet requirements for LEED Silver certification, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
"We have not gotten our official stamp of approval from the U.S. Green Building Council, who legislates all of these things, but we feel very confident about it," Fowler said. If Coyote Village is awarded LEED Silver status, it will be the first project on a campus in the state of South Dakota to receive such a designation.
"That's something to be very, very proud of," he said.
"We're actually about 10 to 20 percent above our first year projections (for occupancy)," Abbott said, "so we feel really good about that. I wasn't positive that these folks (AUDG) could build this facility in 11 months, but they did. We were a little careful; we wanted to make sure that our students could get in, and until we could guarantee that our students could get an apartment by the first day of school, we really didn't sign folks up. So this has been great."
Coyote Village is designed for sophomores up to graduate students at the university – people that typically may seek off-campus housing.
"I think the great thing about Coyote Village is that it creates and helps sustain a vibrancy on campus," Abbott said. "We're a stone's throw from the DakotaDome, and we're not far away from the Muenster Student Center.
"This is a part of where it's happening. This contributes to the vibrancy of the campus," he said, "it contributes to us being able to offer other services that our students want and appreciate and need."