By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The amenities will be distinctive at a new Grand Canyon University campus housing complex, which last week entered the initial stages of construction off Missouri and 29th avenues.
Three student apartment buildings will include first-floor plazas that feature indoor-outdoor flex space for fitness, an arcade and dining/coffee gathering spots.
It’s called The Rivers, a complex that includes an adjacent 2,800-car parking garage and is scheduled to open in August 2021. It will add 1,800 beds to increase on-campus housing capacity to nearly 16,000.
“Over 70 percent of our (traditional ground) students live on campus. Students just enjoy living here. They enjoy being together and enjoy the convenience of it,” said Matt Hopkins, Director of Residence Life. “So the University has made a commitment to provide that. Our students have fallen in love with brand new buildings, which we have on a regular basis here.”
It continues the growth on that side of campus. Last year, the addition of Sonora, Antelope and Palo Verde apartments just west of 29th Avenue added 1,800 beds to a booming on-campus population that had increased four-fold since 2012. And the Canyon Activity Center is right across the street.
The apartment-style units will be similar to others on campus -- single bedrooms, two bathrooms and a shared kitchen -- but the community areas should excite students. Since upperclassmen pick first for housing, it was designed with them especially in mind.
“We’ve all been there. You tend to grow up and you want to have very intentional spaces that cater to your needs,” said suoLL architect Caroline Lobo, who designed many of the campus projects built by Pono Construction.
She was part of a focus group with student leaders to find out what they wanted in new housing.
“The hangout patterns are very different than for freshmen,” she said. “You want your privacy but also a sense of camaraderie.”
The three residential units, named after area rivers (Salt, Verde and Agua Fria), will offer plenty of ways to mix with others, including an irregular-shaped swimming pool in a large plaza.
“All of these have their own vibe, catering to an independent lifestyle,” Lobo said.
Plans may evolve during construction, but one building’s flex space will include a large fitness facility with garage doors that open to the outdoors -- a perfect location for fitness classes.
“The weather is so nice between September and April that you can be outside and take advantage of it,” said Hopkins, who added that the pandemic was further motivation to provide more outdoor spaces for better air circulation.
Another building will have a large arcade area.
“The run-of-the-mill arcade is very different than how we look at this area,” Lobo said. “It will have limited gaming equipment, such as machines for instant gratification, but more pool tables, maybe a foosball table and a board game area.”
The third building will feature a GCBC, the student-run coffee shop, and new dining options yet to be determined. They also will have a different vibe, with indoor-outdoor service.
“When you look at new, up-and-coming restaurants and cafes, their service counters face the outside and there is seating outside,” Lobo said. “They have a diversity of users, with a band playing in one area, a lounging area or seating at the counter, if you can imagine all of that.”
The pandemic, she added, has showcased the advantage of the beautiful Phoenix campus that already utilizes prime outdoor spaces.
Building three residence halls at once gave the University the opportunity to execute an integrated development, said James Kossler, Vice President of Facilities Planning and Operations.
It also will increase the burgeoning campus to 27 housing units by next fall.
“It continues to develop the vision of our leaders to provide more people an opportunity for an affordable Christian education,” Kossler said. “It’s a nice University and we are drawing people from farther away, so we are taking steps to meet that demand.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.