An institution of over 8,500 students, California University of Pennsylvania had provided 1,400 beds of traditional residence hall housing in facilities nearing 50 years old. Recognizing that “times have changed; students have changed,” the University wished to transform student living from “dorm life” into what it has branded “The Suite Life.”
Together with Pittsburgh-based architects MCF, Anderson Strickler worked with the University to articulate a mission statement for student housing, and then studied the needs and wants of students and the particulars of the marketplace through focus groups and off-campus and peer institution analyses. As the focus groups revealed significant interest in living on campus, Anderson Strickler circulated a written survey to students, the results of which demonstrated that the University could increase the number of students accommodated to 1,700 if housing were provided that met student needs, primarily apartment-style housing. Anderson Strickler then developed a comprehensive housing plan for the University and a financial model that balanced market demand against financial considerations to determine which scenarios resulted in self-supporting modifications to the housing program, and subsequently assisted the University in implementing the plan, specifically in developer selection and providing financial analysis and advice on structuring transactions that provide a maximum benefit of the program to the students.
The University has continued to work with Anderson Strickler to survey students, testing the idea of replacing existing housing with new. The University has since replaced all of its traditional residence halls with new, on-campus housing, which has been filled to capacity since opening. The state-of-the-art residence halls, which use geothermal technology for heating and air conditioning, were featured in a recent “Green Community” exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
Mr. Barry Niccolai
Dean for Residence and Off Campus Student Life