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Wofford College seniors relish Village as school unveils Phase 5 of housing project

By Lynne P. Shackleford
lynne.shackleford@shj.com
Spartanburg Herald-Journal 
Published: Sunday, October 2


PhaseV (Alex Hicks, Spartanburg Herald-Journal)This weekend, Wofford College unveiled the crowning jewel in its unique Village housing project.

Phase V is an $11.1 million store-front, mixed-use building with student housing, classrooms with an open, all-glass galleria and market designed as a focal point to the college's $24.9 million village senior housing. An official name for the center has not been finalized, so Wofford students and faculty are referring to the popular meeting place where students hang out, study and meet as Phase V. It's also expected to be the last phase in the village project.

The Village, designed and built in five phases as funding was available, was the brainchild of Wofford alumnus and benefactor Mike Brown, Class of 1976, who envisioned the senior class not only attending classes together, but also gathering and mingling in their Charlestonian-style houses situated in a neighborhood that has large porches, rocking chairs and shares large green lawns with noble trees. The Village has sidewalks, bike paths and racks, grills for student interaction, and the student suites are designed for large groups of students and faculty to meet while enjoying a meal or for a brainstorming session so there are more mentoring opportunities.

Brown served on the college Board of Trustees in 2003 when members wanted to grow the student body. Brown approached college President Bernie Dunlap with the idea of creating more student housing that eventually would accommodate the entire senior class, but he wanted the houses to have a new urbanism, neighborhood feel.

“I wanted a traditional neighborhood where students would live, work — or in their case, go to class — play, visit with one another on porches, play basketball and volleyball, dine, shop and could do it all right here without ever having to get into a car,” Brown said Friday prior to a ceremony unveiling Phase V to parents and alumni. “Bernie loved the concept.”

Brown, who lives in Atlanta, had seen similar neighborhoods while on vacation and thought the concept would work well on Wofford's campus where large, multi-story dormitories would be out-of-scale.

“We wanted to keep our talent — the best talent we have is in the senior class — on campus,” Brown said. “At that point, about 25 percent of seniors lived off campus in apartments.”

Brown said in apartments, seniors return from classes, go inside and close the door with little interaction except with their roommates.

Eight years later, only 2 percent of Wofford seniors live off-campus, and the Village concept is getting rave student reviews. There is no increase in student housing fees for Village residents, either, a factor that was important to Brown.

Alexandra Zeldenrust, 21, is a senior resident adviser from Las Vegas. She was the first to move into her second-floor Suite V suite that she shares with three other female roommates. Her apartment has a large living room, a balcony that overlooks the Village green and a large kitchen table for plenty of guests.

“I love it,” Zeldenrust said. “I love the kitchen; it's huge and we love to cook. This place is amazing. To live somewhere like this, it gives you the chance to get to know everyone here and to make the best out of your senior year.”

Irene Halkias, 21, of Greenville called Phase V “the whole deal.”

“It's amazing,” she said. “You come out to the galleria and enjoy a meal, or a cup of coffee, and you run into your classmates.”

Representatives from Elon College, Washington and Lee, Presbyterian College, Wake Forest, the University of North Carolina, Clemson University, the University of South Carolina and others have visited Wofford to tour the Village, so the unique housing concept may soon be duplicated.

Anne-Michael Sustman, of Summerour Architects in Atlanta, said the Village will likely become the new prototype for urban student housing. Sustman was one of the project architects.

“This project is ahead of the bar,” she said. “It's a great example of what other campuses should be looking at since colleges and universities are constantly searching for ways to create the ultimate college experience.”

Brown said the Village is keeping Wofford competitive with other colleges and universities.

“This is unique to Wofford and something we can offer that you can't get anywhere else,” he said. “It works here because our size lends itself to this. In the end, it's about making memories and what lasting memories our students will make here.”

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