New apartments to add even more color to campus
Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Elizabeth Tinajero
GCU News Bureau
Bailee Laws is a fitting judge of three new apartment complexes nearing completion on the Grand Canyon University campus. She lived in Jerome Apartments, a similar model that opened last year.
“I like the layout of the apartment. I like having my own room, which is a lot bigger than I thought it would be,” she said. “Everything is updated and brand new and it looks really nice.”
The addition of Sonora, Antelope and Palo Verde apartments just west of 29th Avenue not only adds 1,800 beds to a booming on-campus population, it signals a new wave of campus culture.
“This will be a busy part of campus,” said Matt Hopkins, Director of Residence Life, driving a cart down a lane filled with construction workers.
The area will now include six apartment buildings, a new parking garage, a swimming pool, green space, a convenience mart, a fitness facility and dining options as well as the busy Canyon Activity Complex to the north.
The growth of on-campus living is driven by increased enrollment at GCU, Hopkins said.
“People know GCU and like Phoenix because it’s a great place to live. They like the sense of community on campus, this idea of living in a community that cares.”
When he arrived at GCU in 2012, roughly 3,000 students lived on campus. By 2019-20, it has grown to 13,000.
“You can live with friends and you can roll out of bed and be in class in five minutes,” he said.
The 29th Avenue area is also becoming more a part of the vibe of the campus. This coming year, nearly a third of the students on campus will live there.
“Last year, sophomores weren’t choosing to live there, but now a lot of them are,” said Jesi Weeks, Residence Life Manager. “It’s good to see the mindset change.”
The apartments are 1,068 square feet with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a shared living room and kitchen.
“The students like having their own bedroom and still have a shared living space,” said Carisa Kelso, Resident Director in Jerome. “A lot of them really like cooking instead of having to always get food on campus.”
The apartments are for returning students. Older students especially like apartment-style living, but industry trends show that students more often like it on campus “to stretch their dollar,” said Caroline Lobo, a principal with Suoll Architects, which designed the buildings.
“As you grow older and are now more well versed with the campus, they like the balance between privacy and cooking their meals and yet having a sense of being together with their friends in the same apartment.”
Lobo said the buildings were designed to make it easy for students to move in and out and provide “hang-out spaces,” such as study areas, lounges, conference rooms and laundry facilities.
“The hallways are designed with a sense of light and airiness, unlike typical hotel hallways with no light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “There are a lot of windows and you are connected to the outdoors with views of the courtyards.”
The apartments can be identified easily by their different color schemes – Antelope is brown, Sonora is orange and Palo Verde is green.
“They are designed to be state of the art and modern but give people a sense of comfort and homeyness,” Lobo said. “Like a home away from home.”
And who doesn’t like moving into an apartment where no one has lived before?
“I loved opening a new building,” Laws said of being a Resident Assistant in Jerome last year. “We got to start our own traditions.
“We started Café Jerome, where we would have an all-building event in the lobby on Tuesday and make coffee drinks. Residents would come down and meet and hang out. We could start a different culture and build community.”
That could occur this year in three more places.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.