Esperanza Hall will offer ‘place of belonging’
(Updated Sep. 26)
On a recent afternoon, first-year student Fidencio Ramon plugged his laptop into an outlet, preparing to study at a picnic table near the cafeteria. The biology major says he loves Texas A&M-University-San Antonio, and wouldn’t mind living on campus, adding that it takes him about 45 minutes to drive to campus.
For hundreds of students starting school next fall, living on campus will be an option.
On Wednesday, the day after the the campus’ dedication ceremony for the first residence hall, the majority of students and staff interviewed across campus said they drive more than 30 minutes to attend the university.
Many students said they are interested in a true college experience, and say living at the Esperanza Residence Hall is a great option. So far, they haven’t had that choice, driving instead to the commuter campus to attend the university.
First-year student, Gabrielle Tellez is excited to see what the dorms will look like and how they will enhance the college experience for students. Tellez thinks naming the building “Esperanza” is fitting for the university, and believes adding the dorms will help attract more people to campus. In turn, developing more businesses and shopping centers in the area.
With an aggressive construction timeline, Esperanza Hall will open to students August 17, 2017. Already wood beams and concrete are erected for the foundation of the hall. Campus officials say it will remedy the issue of the lack of housing in direct proximity to the university.
Currently, student-oriented off campus housing market isn’t available, and the limited supply of surrounding residences are low-income housing or older complexes in poor condition, according to a market study produced by RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank that provided the university input on the project.
The study recognizes two apartment communities as possible off-campus housing: Villa Espada Apartment Homes on Clubhouse Boulevard, six miles away and Tobin Lofts at San Antonio College, 11 miles from A&M-San Antonio.
“We know that the potential impact of our surrounding community is critical to San Antonio’s growth,” Matson said. “This university is supporting the growth, particularly in the South side of San Antonio.”
During faculty and staff convocation, university officials announced the university will open temporary facilities and will close Brooks Campus, the current home for the College of Business. The move would consolidate faculty, staff and students at Main Campus and increase the overall student population.
At the dedication ceremony, Matson said she hopes Esperanza Hall will help create a sense of belonging on campus, while creating growth on the South side. She believes the residence hall will create a “pathway to prosperity for generations of students.”
“This building is more than just another facility on our campus,” Matson said. “It also represents for our student community a sense of belonging; a home on our campus, and it opens doors for them and their opportunities.”
Benefits of living on campus
President Matson and Chancellor John Sharp lauded the benefits of living on campus, including higher academic success rates, increased retention, timely graduation, and the opportunity for students to have a collegiate experience.
“We know studies indicate that students living on campus have up to a full point higher GPA,” Matson said. “Student residents achieve greater personal growth, they increase their social interactions with their peers and they are significantly more open to diversity in the workplace.”
“There is a difference between kids that commute to college, and those that live there,” Sharp said. “When you live there [on campus], you make better grades, you’re bonded to the college, the traditions, all of the things that a destination university does. Now kids can come from all over the state. This is going to be a great four-year year institution.”
“The regents really believe in this place,” Sharp continued. “If you build it, they will come,”
Specifics of Esperanza
Esperanza Hall, a modern 104,805-square-foot facility located next to the Patriots’ Casa, is one of three academic buildings on campus. It consists of a single building, four floors tall.
The residence hall will provide 103 housing units with 382 beds with double occupancy suites and single occupancy semi-suites. Two bedroom/one bathroom (double), two bedroom one bathroom, (single) suites, and one bedroom one bathroom (double occupancy) suites, two bedroom one bathroom staff apartments.
Each fully-furnished unit includes student amenities and private features including full closets and bathrooms, privacy walls and vanities. Each floor will offer students laundry facilities and elevator access.
Students residing in the facility will have the full conveniences associated with residing in on‐campus housing, including dining options.
The first floor of the center will include a 4,250 square foot community center, a housing office, resident lounge and fitness center. The second floor will include 5,400 square feet of amenities including a game room, a social lounge and kitchen. The upper floors will contain study spaces and various private study areas, equipped with Smart TV’s and whiteboards. The fourth floor will contain an outdoor balcony available for future events and resident functions.
Due to the benefits living on campus entails, Texas A&M- San Antonio is implementing a policy that will require students with less than 30 earned semester hours to live on campus, with typical exclusions. Dr. Melissa Mahan, vice president for Student Affairs, confirmed plans are still under review but the university will include residency exclusions including students who are over 21 and those with over 30 semester hours.
Texas A&M- San Antonio contracted Davis Brothers Construction, Ltd., a construction firm located in Richmond, Virginia and Architectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz, who have worked on other housing institutions across the nation including Arizona State University, University of California at Berkeley, Drexel University and University of Toledo.
According to Matson, the university signed an agreement with Davis Brothers on June 30. The next morning, they were building, she said.
During the unveiling, university staff joked with Davis Brothers, stating they’d be “polishing doorknobs” during the opening.
American Campus Communities (ACC) created a lasting partnership with the A&M System. Esperanza Hall is the 11th development the company has built for the University, and one of the only first-time housing creation ACC has created in their 25 years of business.
“It’s always a greater pleasure when you’re able to do something that’s truly transformative on the college campus,” Bill Bayless, CEO, of American Campus Communities said. “It’s a very rare opportunity you get to be a part of something this special.”