VERMILLION — Two new apartment complexes should ease growing pains when it comes to housing in Vermillion, two city officials said this week.
The Heights and the Quarters will add more than 400 apartments combined to the available housing. They are both slated for occupancy this fall, in time for the start of classes at the University of South Dakota.
Their arrival will make a significant impact on Vermillion’s housing, according to City Manager John Prescott. The city has seen steady population growth, surpassing 10,000 residents.
“The Census Bureau has us listed above the 10,500 mark with its 2017 estimates,” he said. “Potentially, 5 percent of our population would be living (in one of) those two housing projects.”
The Heights, a private student housing project located at 1000 N. Dakota Street, consists of one building with 74 apartment units that provide 235 bedrooms. The complex offers a pool, giant outdoor television, washer/dryer in each unit, multiple study rooms and a fitness room.
The cost of construction is $12.8 million.
The Quarters, a private housing project open to all, is located at 1129 Cottage Avenue. The complex consists of nine buildings with 169 apartment units that provide 496 bedrooms. The site offers a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, club house with golf simulator, tanning beds, game room, study area, 24-hour fitness area and washer/dryer for each unit.
The cost of construction is $20.1 million.
The apartment rental demand has driven much of the current housing growth, Prescott said. However, Vermillion officials are also working with single-family residential homes.
“In 2018, we had 10 single-family building permits,” he said. “In 2019, we have six family building permits as of (this week).”
The dollar figures are bearing out those housing trends, according to Vermillion assistant city manager James Purdy.
“Things are going pretty well this year,” he said. “In 2018, we issued $1.985 million worth of single-family housing permits, and already this year in 2019, we aren’t even halfway through the year, and we have permits for projects totaling $2.533 million.”
USD has grown its enrollment in recent years through aggressive marketing, demand for its programs and the move to NCAA Division I status. In addition, the campus has received major changes with new buildings and the renovation of existing ones.
In fall 2018, the number of first-time, undergraduate student enrollment was the largest in USD history. The incoming class of 1,427 students marked an increase of 6.4 percent over the previous year’s incoming class.
Last fall, university housing reported occupancy rates of 99.73 percent. In recent years, USD has added Coyote Village and McFadden Hall offering apartments and suites.
However, the growing enrollment has placed continued pressure on available rental housing in Vermillion, Prescott said. If USD maintains a high retention rate, last year’s record first-year class should continue to create housing demand through their four-year stay in Vermillion.
“During the first two years, students are required to live on campus. Last year, with its largest incoming full-time freshman class in its history, USD had some housing crunch,” he said. “Some sophomores received waivers, which allowed them to live off campus, and they may be looking at it again this year.”
Prescott doesn’t look for the situation to ease this fall.
“This coming year, those freshmen (in that record class) will now be a big class as sophomores, and they will still have the requirement of living on campus,” he said.
“That’s a positive force. The private business sector sees it as a good sign of a growing market with a lot of people in need of rental housing.”
The incoming companies have done their market research, which looks not only at housing numbers but also community support, Prescott said.
“The Heights is a four-story project. They were looking for a similar type project that they have done with other universities,” he said. “They did their homework, and they saw the need at smaller (NCAA) Division I universities for amenity housing. It will complement the university’s offerings.”
Purdy picked up on one crucial phrase — “amenity rich.”
Today’s students demand quality housing and apartment or suite-style living, Purdy said. The Rapid City native saw similar student expectations when he attended the University of Wyoming as an undergraduate and New Mexico State for graduate school.
“Young people have expectations,” he said. “Both college students and young professionals want those amenities.”
Purdy noted that one apartment complex offers an all-inclusive rental payment that includes utilities and other expenses. “The nice thing is that it’s one amount, and you know what you will pay each month,” he said.
Tenants are also billed on a per-payment basis, avoiding some of the payment hassles from a group rental.
You want the amenities but have no roommates to split the rent or share an apartment? No problem, under one complex’s arrangement.
“If you don’t have four people who want to live together, or you’re alone and want to live in a two- or three-bedroom apartment, they can match you up with other people,” Purdy said. “It’s similar to the dorms when you’re a freshman and they assign you a roommate.”
USD officials already perceived the need for offering amenities when Coyote Village was constructed about a decade ago, Prescott said. The four-story, 175-unit complex is located just south of the DakotaDome and provides suite-style and apartment living for 546 students.
The new housing attracts not only students but another important audience — parents.
“The parents want things for their students, like a security system and study rooms,” Prescott said, adding that students without cars are also looking at the ability to walk to campus.
Besides the apartment complex developers, other businesses are noticing the growth at USD and elsewhere in Vermillion, Prescott said.
“When you drive by Vermillion on Highway 50, it creates an impression to see the apartments (under construction). But you look at Pizza Ranch, and they selected the same site for construction,” he said.
“They were looking at a place where hundreds of college students are living within a block. It doesn’t hurt to have that kind of potential business, to have such a concentration of residents along Cherry Street.”
Despite numerous success stories, Vermillion leaders aren’t resting on their laurels, Purdy said. In particular, they are looking at one prime target as new residents.
“We would like to see the number of people who work in Vermillion, but who live elsewhere, to go down,” he said.
“In order to do that, we want to offer different housing and different price points. We want to give people more opportunities to make Vermillion their home.”
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