Residential Goal Drives ASU Building Boom

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 12:00 am  

Ten years ago, Arkansas State University set a goal to change its identity from a commuter campus to a residential one. A decade and more than $200 million in building projects later, the Jonesboro campus is approaching the finish line.

“I first started coming onto this campus in 1974 when my older brother was on campus here,” said Len Frey, ASU’s vice chancellor. “I came here as a student in 1981. The evolution of what this campus looked like in 1981 to what it is today is almost beyond words.”

There wasn’t much campus life, Frey said. Students came to campus for classes and went home afterward. For living on campus, male students had two options, said Rick Stripling, vice chancellor for student affairs and construction manager.

“There was Delta Hall, which was an old building at the time, and Twin Towers, a high-rise that held 900 to 1,000 guys,” he said. “Nobody really wanted to live in it.”

But by 2000, the college wanted its students to get to campus and stay there. Shane Broadway, interim director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education in Little Rock, said ASU’s approach was hardly unique.

“Some of the thought on ASU and others is a change in the direction to provide more campus housing, as data tells them and us that the more connected to the campus a student is, the better their chances of graduating,” Broadway said. He cited the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway as examples of Arkansas universities that have expanded on-campus housing.

Still, he said, ASU’s changes have been eye-popping. The campus footprint ballooned from 3 million SF to 4 million in the past decade. It increased its enrollment 14 percent between 2010 and 2011, and almost 30 percent during the past five years. Of its roughly 10,000 students, 3,200 currently live on campus, more than twice as many compared with a decade ago.

David Handwork, ASU’s director of planning, said the 240,000-SF Student Union, completed in 2007, was the anchor of ASU’s building boom. At $35 million, it’s the largest of all the building projects undertaken during the decade. It consolidated all student services into a one-stop location at the center of campus and bisected Aggie Road. It also had the effect of rerouting auto traffic out of the center of campus, giving students more room and incentive to walk around.

Other completed multimillion-dollar projects include:

• The $24 million North Park Quad, a multistory housing facility;

• The $20 million Arkansas Biosciences Institute, which partners its research programs with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville;

• The $18 million Red Wolf Recreation Center; and



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