A new $5 million student housing complex may be a springboard to a development boom near the Columbus Municipal Airport.
Officials representing local colleges already based in the airport education and commerce park agree the project’s eventual impact likely will be far greater than the T-shaped structure that will house 112 students starting this fall.
They said the Villas at Columbus on the city’s north side will likely lead to a bigger Columbus student body, a bigger airport park and bigger local graduation rates.
About 40 students already have applied, said housing representative Kelly Young, who expects The Villas will reach capacity long before school begins.
The site at Ray Boll Boulevard and Poshard Avenue has room for expansion by developer Bluffstone LLC of Bettendorf, Iowa.
Students living at The Villas won’t need a car to get to class, but buying groceries and other household necessities is another matter.
Aside from the Elks Lodge and a few cafes and snack shops scattered throughout the airport property, the closest shopping center and restaurants are on National Road nearly 2 miles away.
Airport Director Brian Payne said most students likely will have their own vehicles — and the bus stop is only a few blocks from campus.
But he hopes businesses will come to students.
“We’re putting things in place right now to try to make things happen,” Payne said.
The airport has distributed a survey about dining preferences that yielded more than 600 responses. Input came mostly from students and air park employees but also from pilots and local homeowners and renters.
American food was the popular choice for the type of cuisine respondents would prefer, with Mexican and Asian not far behind.
Payne said the airport will soon send out requests for developers to submit proposals based on the survey results.
Enrollment at IUPUC has increased 10.9 percent since 2010, but bigger gains are expected to be within reach.
“We know statistically that we will be able to attract students that we otherwise would not be able to attract,” said Marwan Wafa, vice chancellor and dean at IUPUC.
Until now, IUPUC has been losing students to campuses such as Indiana University-Bloomington, Ball State University or Purdue University, all of which feature on-campus housing.
“The big winners in this whole initiative are the students,” he said.
One such student is Ashley Campbell, a senior at North Decatur High School.
She plans to attend Ivy Tech next year now that there are student housing options other than living at home or finding private housing in Columbus.
“Traditionally community colleges have not had student housing, and this is changing nationally,” said Keith Hansen, vice chancellor for student affairs for Ivy Tech’s Columbus and Franklin campuses.
That could help attract students such as Campbell, who want both cheaper credit hours and the atmosphere of a traditional residential campus.
Joe Fuehne, director at the Purdue University College of Technology, said he recruits students from a region of 10 counties — some as far away as the border of Ohio.
“I’ll tell them, ‘If you really want the residential college opportunity, you probably need to go to West Lafayette,’” he said. “Now we can tell them, ‘We can offer that to you as well.’”
But recruiting students is just the first step. Keeping them is just as important.
Angie Shafer, Columbus campus president at Harrison College, said the lack of student housing has hurt retention rates.
“We all know that housing is very hard to come by in Columbus,” she said.
Without housing, she said, many rural students instead opt to take online classes or transfer to a large campus after the price of gas and hassle of commuting become too much.
Ryan Hou, CEO of LHP Inc., hopes the housing will help retain and attract local and international students.
As head of a technology company and a member of the Columbus Economic Development Board, Hou said he is always looking to invest in talent from other countries to promote economic change.
But sometimes, when students voice interest in studying in Columbus, they’ll ask about housing options. The lack of on-campus housing has been a dampener, he said.
Hou said adding an international population of just a few students would enrich the educational experience on Columbus college campuses.
“When you have a foreign student coming over here from England, from China, from India, that’s going to enrich your life and enrich the student body,” Hou said.
“You get to know a different student, a different culture. The students get a channel of connections to other cultures and other countries. I think it’s exciting, and it’s the right thing to do,” said Hou, who has been on economic development trade missions.
Airpark food venue survey results
What type(s) of cuisine do you think should be offered at the Columbus Airpark?
Asian: 37.9 percent
American: 71 percent
Mexican: 49 percent
Thai: 14.9 percent
Indian: 13.8 percent
No preference: 21.3 percent
Which dining experience do you prefer?
Not dining on Columbus Airpark property: 1 percent
Dine-in, sit-down, relaxing: 14.9 percent
Fast food, quick, easy: 5.9 percent
Would use both at separate times: 78.2 percent
What types of dine-in places do you prefer?
“Mom and Pop” local restaurants: 53.8 percent
Chain/popular restaurants: 34.1 percent
Something unique/different: 52 percent
Coffee shop/relaxed atmosphere: 44.4 percent
Sandwich shop/quick access: 49 percent
No preference: 11.6 percent
Would you prefer a restaurant with a pub or bar area?
Yes: 32.5 percent
No: 29.5 percent
No preference: 38 percent
Campus housing facility
Location: Southwest corner of Ray Boll Boulevard and Poshard Drive, just east of the Columbus Behavioral Center.
Four-bedroom, two-bath suites with shared kitchen and living areas. Cost per student is $4,750 for the academic year.
Two-bedroom, two-bath suites with shared kitchen and living areas. Cost per student is $5,500 per academic year.
In-room amenities: All students will have private bedrooms with large closets and a desk. The open-concept kitchens will include full-size appliances, a dishwasher, upscale cabinets and a breakfast bar.
Complex amenities: The building will feature 24-hour security surveillance, a 24-hour fitness center, on-site laundry facilities, a large social room, study area with Wi-Fi access and monthly activities for student residents.