With two weeks to go before another school year starts at Indiana University Kokomo, work was wrapping up on a second student housing complex near the campus. And, according to its developer, the property is filling up fast.
Last week on the corner of South Lafountain and Boulevard streets, just a few blocks away from IUK’s campus, workers were putting the final touches on University Park. Outside, grass seed was watered to eventually cover freshly-turned soil. Inside, minor work remained on the housing complex’s main entrance, and workers scurried about carrying cabinets and furniture to each room, which all awaited students who soon would occupy the dorm-style, three-story housing complex.
According to Dave Van Baalen, the managing partner of the complex’s developer 6G properties, the complex will be nearly full ahead of its inaugural semester as part of IUK’s campus.
This, he said, came as no surprise. He only lamented that if the complex had been completed sooner he believed its 130-student capacity already would be met completely.
“We aren’t going to be fully open, but we’ll be really close,” said Van Baalen. “I mean, we’re going to have a nice number going in … It’s just, as you can tell, we’re rushing to get construction finished. If we had this thing constructed by May we’d be sold out now. People just have to fight their way through construction to get here. We have no question that by next school year, maybe even by next semester at Christmas, we’ll be sold out.”
University Park is the second student-housing development aimed at capturing students attending IUK. It was preceded by The Annex in 2014. Both are private developments, but the university sees big opportunity in developing student housing, which just several years ago was completely absent from the campus.
According to Todd Gambill, IUK’s vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, the local university’s student demographics have shifted over the years. What began as a regional campus that catered to adults seeking a degree after having been in the workforce has, over time, began to attract more and more traditional students straight out of high school.
The younger demographic, he said, has craved the “dorm experience” had at other colleges. Similarly, the growth of campus athletics and international student programs has necessitated the addition of student housing.
“While the nontraditional student is still an important part of our mission as a regional campus, and we still serve those 25-plus-aged students, our growth has certainly been in that traditional 18-year-old market,” said Gambill. “We’ve been having record enrollments from those first-year students. They want things and need things that the nontraditional students may not have the same needs or desires for … many 18 year olds want an option to, even if they live in our community, to live on their own as part of that developmental process.”
It’s a need, it appears, that will drive any potential development of student housing in the future at IUK.
According to Van Baalen, the market will determine how far IUK’s student housing options will go. But, he noted, he likely will construct more student housing for the local campus in the future.
“We don’t know what the number is,” said Van Baalen. “IUK doesn’t know what the number is. They have 3,500 students. There’s one other facility in town that has 130 beds. What’s the magic number for student housing? So, we built 130; it fills up right away. So, you build another 130. We had to prove the business model before we do number two. But we’re looking to build more.”
There are constraints, though, according to Van Baalen. Any development of student housing needs to be near to the campus, he said. In the case of University Park, a trail system is under construction so students can walk or bike directly to the campus relatively easily.
As of now, he wouldn’t say specifically where his company may be looking to build more, just that he hoped to do so in the future.
IUK seems hopeful that private development, in part, will continue to fuel the campus’ growth.
“I certainly would love to see additional (housing), whether it’s the existing ones adding to their inventory or somebody else building,” said Gambill. “Any of those would be great options. Obviously, these are private enterprises, and they will be driven by the market. As we continue to expand our footprint and bring more international students, etc., I do anticipate there will be increased demand, and hopefully somebody will step up and meet that demand as it presents itself.”