USC asked students to take part in a survey during October to help assist in the renovations of several on-campus dorms.
The project, designed as a partnership between different public and private entities, is part of an effort to create a centralized development plan for university housing.
Developments are expected to last many years and include renovations to multiple buildings, including Capstone, Columbia Hall, McBryde, Bates West and South Tower.
The university released an updated version of the campus master plan — a document that outlines plans for future projects — in 2018. The master plan includes the major development plans for the university to undertake within the next ten years and is updated as new projects are added.
This new addition to the master plan aims to consider different areas of campus and conduct housing improvements on a rolling basis, university architect Derek Gruner said.
“What’s different (about this effort) is that we’re looking more broadly at developing a plan that sequences many projects, many buildings across campus,” Gruner said.
To receive student feedback, the university has partnered with Sasaki Associates, an architectural design firm from Boston.Sasaki developed a survey that was distributed to various student organizations on Oct. 13.
Student Disability Resource Center, Fraternity and Sorority Life and Multicultural Affairs were among those asked to include the survey in their newsletters.
The survey was posted to @UofSCstudents on X, formerly known as Twitter, and on Instagram, in addition to being emailed to various student groups. The survey was designed as an interactive map and allows students to outline their walks around campus and which areas they use the most.
Students will have the option to choose where they study, live, workout and go to class. There are also options to highlight their favorite and least favorite areas on campus. Short demographic questions, as well as options for year and major, are located at the end of the survey.
Gruner said information from students is necessary in order to expand the best parts of campus.
“It’s important for planners to know where students like to eat on campus, where they like to study, where most of their classes are, where students feel safe, where they feel like an area could be better,” Gruner said. “That’s what the survey is geared at trying to do. We hope that students will go on that survey and address some of those issues.”
But students living in some of the dorms central to the project said they have yet to take the survey. The Daily Gamecock spoke to 10 freshmen from South Tower, Capstone and McBryde who all had no knowledge of it.
Abbie Finney, a first-year advertising student living in South Tower, was unsure if she had received any information about the plan despite living in one of the dorms highlighted in the project.
“I don’t know. I might have gotten an email or something,” Finney said. “If I got something that was like, ‘Hey, take this,’ sure."
The survey is designed to gather information from students, but many of the most prevalent housing issues are problems the university is already aware of, according to university spokesperson Jeff Stensland.
"We anticipate the survey will just reinforce what we already know from maintenance experience,” Stensland said in an email to The Daily Gamecock.
The survey is just one of the first steps of the project. The university is considering students' current needs for housing, both in terms of renovations to housing and possible construction of future facilities, said J. Rex Tolliver, the vice president for student affairs and academic support.
“(We’re) trying to see what really are students’ needs, desires today, as we plan for this future phase of housing,” Tolliver said. “Both in terms of renovations of existing facilities as well as the possible construction of new facilities.”
The project will require a more extensive development plan due to its large scale, Gruner said.
Buildings have been updated in the past as individual projects, with a specific company designing the plans for just that building, Gruner said. The new effort aims to examine housing more broadly and create a sequence of renovations.
“We acknowledge that we have some housing buildings that are really new and are wonderful, and then we (also) have some buildings that are older that need to be renewed or replaced,” Gruner said. “What this is about is trying to (update) housing in a more integrated, broader way.”
Many of the dorms listed in the project were built in the 1960s and have since undergone little renovation. The McBryde building, which was originally used as fraternity housing, was constructed in 1955.
New locations are being considered as possible future student housing in addition to the updates on older, existing dorms. These areas include Carolina Gardens next to Campus Village and the Byrnes building next to the Horseshoe.
Development of those buildings is contingent on evaluation from the university, Gruner said.
“The process that we’ll go through — we’ll look at those buildings and decide, 'Does it make the most sense to replace those buildings … with a new structure or renovate them?'” Gruner said.
These new spaces are not expected to cost significantly more than current available housing. The university considers the feasibility of housing prices for students and does not wish to dramatically increase them, Tolliver said.
“Historically, the price of housing always changes from year to year (depending) on inflation,” Tolliver said. “We don’t anticipate this new housing being wildly out of line with the existing housing that we have. It may be a slight difference but it won't be a big variance, because affordability still matters.”
Dorms on campus vary in price from $3,000 to almost $7,000 per semester. McBryde is the cheapest at $3,205, but a one-bedroom in Park Place is more than double that price at $6,955. Most housing is around $4,500 to $5,000.
Shyann Lee, a first-year civil engineering student, said that for her, the experience of living in Bates West is not worth the price.
Lee said that while her room only has minor issues, dorms in the basement have mold on the ceilings and broken air conditioning units.
Multiple residents complained of the broken elevators and lack of available washing machines.
“Honestly, I don’t think any of these dorms are worth $4,000 or more dollars for a whole year,” Lee said.
While the university outlines a plan for renovation, some students feel that their dorms don’t need to change.
Gavin Curran, a first-year sports management student, said he is happy with his experience in South Tower. The location on campus and his friendships with other residents have made it enjoyable, he said.
South Tower, which was built in 1965, had renovations made to various bathrooms in 2015 and a roof replacement in 2012, but there have been no other major updates to the structure since, besides the continual routine maintenance by Housing.
Currently, there are no dates set for when the project will begin. The university plans to go through the solicitation process, where a Request for Proposal is issued, in the first quarter of 2024. That document will allow developers to approach the school about plans and provide information about funding.
“These things just take a lot of time. Everyone just has to be patient,” Gruner said. “We’re pleased that the university is taking this step.”