The Florida Board of Governors on Wednesday unanimously approved building a housing and student center complex on the University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, advancing USF’s bold plans to expand the campus and transform the college experience for students.
In the coming months, USF will break ground on a multi-story, 100,000-square-foot housing/student center along Seagate Drive just west of the iconic Crosley Campus Center. When the new complex opens in the fall of 2024, as many as 200 students will be able to live on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus for the first time.
USF expects the housing/student center complex will enhance student success, including boosting student recruitment and retention efforts, and grow on-campus engagement.
“The new housing and student center is crucial to supporting the growth of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus,” USF President Rhea Law said. “This new project will allow the campus to strengthen the overall student experience as it continues expanding its academic program offerings in high-demand fields.”
The new building will have two parts. The student center, with 32,000 square feet on the ground floor, will feature a new bookstore and spaces for dining, lounges and meeting rooms. Student housing, with 68,000 square feet on the upper floors, will be comprised of 70 double-occupancy bedrooms and 60 single-occupancy bedrooms in one-bedroom, two-bedroom and four-bedroom apartment-style configurations, with shared bathrooms, living spaces and kitchens or kitchenettes.
Karen Holbrook, regional chancellor for the Sarasota-Manatee campus, says the new building will bring an added sense of vibrancy.
"Our students have often told us they would like to live on campus and enjoy a traditional college experience. The new student center and residence hall will transform our beautiful campus and provide our students with new opportunities for success,” Holbrook said. “This project has been considered for several years, and I’m grateful to President Law for helping bring it to fruition, and to the Board of Governors and the USF Board of Trustees for their support.”
Sarasota-Manatee student government Gov. Evelyn De Oliveira said students are excited
about the new complex. She predicts there will be high demand for the chance to live
“With on-campus housing, students will have a chance to interact with each other more as well as experience student life on-campus instead of having to commute every day,” De Oliveira said. “I believe the demand is there even though we are a small campus. It will give students the opportunity to experience living on their own, including international students who want to come to USF but would like the close-knit environment.”
In a study that was updated last May, a USF consultant reported that for many students, living on campus would be more affordable than many off-campus options in the Sarasota-Manatee area, one of the more expensive rental markets of similar size in the country. This fall, more students than ever before are living on USF’s campuses in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Construction of the new building is expected to cost approximately $39 million. USF will contribute $16.5 million, with the remaining funding coming from the sale of up to $30 million in bonds through the USF Financing Corp. The bonds would be repaid with revenue from the USF Housing System, as well as $200,000 a year in activity and service fees collected on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.
The student center/housing complex represents half of the expansion plans that promise to almost triple the size of the Sarasota-Manatee campus and grow its appeal to students, faculty and the larger community.
Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature funded, and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved an initial $3 million appropriation for a 75,000-square-foot Nursing/STEM building.
The new $62 million academic building, currently in the planning and design stages, would double the size of the campus’s nursing program; increase new majors in health disciplines and other programs; and fill the need on campus for teaching and clinical labs and research facilities.
A planned capital campaign will generate part of the funding for the Nursing/STEM project. Also, some of the proceeds from the annual Brunch on the Bay on Nov. 6 will go to support the new building and academic programs.
USF Sarasota-Manatee Campus Board Chair Rick Piccolo says the projects illustrate USF’s commitment to Sarasota-Manatee and growing the local campus’s profile in the area. Piccolo also is president of the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, which sits across U.S. 41 from the campus.
“It has been exciting to watch what is happening at the Sarasota-Manatee campus thanks to the hard work of the USF administration and others and to consider what the future holds for the school,” Piccolo said. “The entire community should be thrilled with the support we have received from the governor, the local legislative delegation, the Board of Governors and other leaders, and with USF’s plans to become an even more essential part of our wonderful community.”