By JAY BLANTON
University of Kentucky
A transformation is taking place on the University of Kentucky campus â€” a transformation that is making UK one of the most attractive places for student living and learning in the country.
In August, UK opened two new residence halls â€” Central Hall I and II â€” which includes 601 new beds and modern learning space. The universityâ€™s growing Honors Program also is located in the new complex, offering UK students the ability to go to class and interact with some of the best faculty where they live.
â€œThe two residence halls we dedicated recently are just the first of many new villages at UK created by a village of innovators, risk takers and dreamers who sought a new way to build,â€ said UK President Eli Capilouto. â€œNot just the most modern place for people to live, but the most modern places for them to learnâ€”to learn with each other, from each other and from the best scholars.â€
Research shows that students learn better and have higher retention and graduation rates when they live on campus. That desire to offer the best undergraduate learning experience in the country is fueling a massive transformation of UKâ€™s student housing.
Now, another 4,000 beds are being constructed across the university. UK has more than 29,000 students for the first time, including a record 4,702 first-year students who enrolled this fall. The construction is part of a multi-year public-private partnership with EdR, a Memphis-based student housing construction company that builds residences across the country.
It is the largest public-private partnership for student housing anywhere in the country. In fact, UK and EdR are contemplating building up to 9,000 new residence hall beds over the next 5 to 7 years, a $500 million investment by the private company in the university.
Some of the amenities in the residence halls just opened include:
- Each four-person suite in Central Hall I and IIâ€”as well as additional UK student housing planned and under construction by EdRâ€”will be furnished with Tempur-Pedic mattresses thanks to a collaboration between Tempur Sealy International, Inc., EdR, the nationâ€™s leading owner, developer and manager of collegiate housing, and UK.
- All Central Hall rooms are equipped with a microwave-fridge combination unit, generous storage areas, high-tech study areas and other amenities.
- The facility features generous community living, study and classroom areas, including 16 active learning/meeting spaces.
- A communal kitchen capable of catering up to 100 guests and high-tech laundry facilities are located in each building.
- Three classrooms will be decorated with furniture on casters, allowing the switch from instructional classroom to open collaborative co-curricular programming space in just three minutes.
- Student living and learning will be enriched with works by Kentucky artists in the lobbies, as well as an inner courtyard with an outdoor amphitheater wired for lights and sound for dramatic productions and concerts.
- The twin residence halls showcase supportive technology for modern student living, including Ethernet and wireless connection and satellite connection throughout.
And there is an important economic impact to the housing partnership.
In the first two residence halls, some 730 direct and indirect jobs were created, generating $730,000 in state and local taxes. With the next 4,000 beds of construction, more than 6,700 direct and indirect jobs will be created, generating $7 million in state and local taxes.