By Anne Monaghan
Photography by Henniker Photography
As the University of La Verne celebrates its 122nd year, a major addition has been made to the main campus landscape: a new student residence hall which opened last fall. Vista La Verne Residence Hall is one of the most significant projects in the history of the University of La Verne in La Verne, Calif. Not only is it the largest building constructed at the University, but it also represents the first project on campus where the University worked in collaboration with a private developer, Hanover Pacific, LLC of Irvine, Calif., from concept, financing and lease up. The collaboration between the developer, the University and its design and construction teams, achieved a project being delivered on time, despite a tight construction schedule of 14 months, and equally important, under budget, according to Robert Y. Kim, executive managing director of Hanover Pacific. The achievements were capped by a strong lease up of the residence hall, which exceeded projections, and LEED Gold certification, the first LEED Gold certification for the University and the City of La Verne.
“The University tasked Hanover Pacific with developing a student residence hall that would provide a Class A campus experience for its resident students, but at a very affordable base rent,” said Kim. “It was also important for the University to build a LEED-certified building because of the University’s commitment to sustainability. Three of the University of La Verne’s four core values include issues related to sustainability and the University is a signatory of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.
At 101,087 square feet, the 4-story building is a mixed-use development housing both the residence hall and the campus bookstore. Additionally, the building, designed by KTGY Group, Inc. of Irvine, Calif., achieves a contemporary look, appealing to the student residents, while complementing its location in a historic downtown area.
“The retail component, housing the campus bookstore, occupies approximately 10,000 square feet of the building’s ground level and serves as a continuation of the historical downtown retail frontage along the main thoroughfare,” said KTGY Design Principal David Senden. “An important design element to the retail frontage was to set back the residential units so that the pedestrian experience would mirror that of the predominately one-story retail structures within the downtown area.”
The remainder of the building houses 378 students in a variety of multi-room suites as well as study areas, lounges, laundry rooms and more. “While a university residence hall, the majority of the units are 4-bedroom units serving 6 students arranged suite-style with private baths, appropriate furnishings and a shared living room at higher level of finishes that compete with market rate apartments,” said Kim.
While the project balances student expectations with affordability, that fact is not evident from the student’s experience. The project was modeled after a boutique hotel with the appropriate accents and higher-end finishes. The entryway sets the tone with dark wood trim set against lightly-colored walls, united at the base by flooring featuring whitish expanses interrupted by large and distinctive deep-hued rectangles. Visitors are naturally drawn forward to a reception counter reminiscent of a boutique hotel front desk.
The units themselves resemble higher-end condominiums rather than a traditional residence hall, Kim said. The residents enjoy a higher degree of privacy than in a traditional residence hall including private bathrooms; however, student interaction is encouraged throughout the building. “Each floor includes community lounges and study rooms. Also, student convenience is addressed by having multiple laundry rooms on every floor complete with smart appliances that accept debit card payment and that can send a text message when a load is finished. There are also numerous refuse rooms providing rubbish and recycling collection,” Kim said.
“This development has many amenities that appeal to students,” Senden said. “Aside from just going downstairs to the bookstore, there are several places that address students’ needs academically and socially. There are ‘hangout spaces’ for groups of various sizes; from large groups in the community room near the lobby serviced by a resident advisor who plans activities and coordinates student life to smaller spaces for socializing on each floor outside of the resident’s apartment. Also, each floor has study rooms that can be reserved for group study or just to ensure some quiet time. Wi-Fi is available throughout the building so residents can connect wherever they go.”
In the planning of the project, Kim stated that the project had to consider not only the student residents but also the larger student body, many of whom commute to campus. The commuting students’ campus experience centered around the student center. So, KTGY designed Vista La Verne to integrate with the newly-completed student center by having a campus green space connect with the project’s green courtyard. For both commuting and resident students, the courtyard and green space would be the integration of both student populations creating a true campus center.
Senden said that Vista La Verne’s courtyard has become the heart of social activity. “On any given night, students can be found barbecuing, playing Frisbee, or even in a sing-a-long with one of the students who likes to play guitar,” Senden said. “KTGY did an excellent job of balancing the need for density, privacy, sustainability and affordability,” Kim said. “Affordability will become ever more important as the cost of education continues to rise. Additionally, while sustainability is important, Vista La Verne is evidence that one doesn’t need to spend a lot to achieve it. Transforming commuters into residents, eliminating the need for cars – is one of the greenest actions a campus can take.”
“By the nature of its location and density, Vista La Verne is a great example of smart growth,” Senden said. “One of the best things we can do for the planet is to reduce car trips and Vista La Verne was designed without parking. It relies solely on the parking provided by the University. The increase in resident students will reduce commuter traffic and congestion, help strengthen the downtown businesses, and make downtown La Verne a destination.”
The project added covered bike shelters, parking for energy-efficient vehicles and sustainable landscaping with California native species and drought tolerant plants. “Over 75 percent of non-hazardous construction waste was recycled, and over 10 percent of the construction materials used contained recycled content,” said Kim. “Environmentallyfriendly materials were included in the building’s design elements, enhancing not only the facility’s aesthetics but also its durability and sustainability. Light colored pedestrian hardscape, shade trees, and a white roof surface decreases Vista La Verne’s energy consumption and reduces the ‘heat island’ effect. Low-flow bathroom fixtures and toilets reduce overall water usage.”
The design was also configured to draw on as much natural light as possible and provide views to the outdoors in over 90% of regularly occupied areas. Daylighting reduces the demand for electricity.
“Vista La Verne is the result of a strong partnership between the development team, the University, the City and the student community during one of the worst economic downturns,” said Kim. “Despite the headlines and the pessimistic outlook on the economy, a small, private university, University of La Verne, had the courage to move forward with the largest, singlebuilding project in its history. The reward was not only having an extremely successful lease-up, but seeing the dramatic impact on the campus and students.”
“This development sets a new standard for campus living at the University of La Verne,” Senden said. “While providing a safe, learning environment that is so important to parents, it also gives the students the proximity to campus and the active social environment they crave. It is a ‘win-win.’ Further, Vista La Verne enables the University of La Verne to attract the best students from all over the world, who want an authentic collegiate experience that includes more than just the books.”
Anne Monaghan is a contributing writer for the real estate industry. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org