Inside University Pointe

Written by | October 8, 2012

A look at PSU’s newest residential hall

The fitness center has that new-car smell, the common areas have framed rock posters and the laundry machine texts you when it’s done.

DANIEL JOHNSTON/VANGUARD STAFF

UNIVERSITY POINTE’S residential lobby sits in the center of the building. The front desk is staffed 24 hours. At right, a model apartment features corner dining room and a private bedroom.

DANIEL JOHNSTON/VANGUARD STAFF

AN OPEN LOUNGE helps University Pointe residents on three floors gather and build community. Elevators stop only at the bottom of each cluster, and residents must walk to upper floors.

A dorm this is not.

Depending on who you ask, University Pointe, the newest building on campus, is either a modern, efficient solution to the needs of both the university and students, or a worrying representation of the increasing privatization of the education system in Oregon.

Regardless, the building is bustling and open for business—and all its beds are rented, the building’s manager says.Striding past the business center and its half dozen brand new, brilliantly white iMacs, past the 24-hour front desk guarding the
elevators, one is surrounded on all sides with concrete.

Bright, clashing colors light up the walls, accompanied by modern furniture and anonymous art: It feels like being in an Ikea showroom but with the natural light and more down-to-business feel of a Costco store.

Going up the elevator yields some unique results.

Trying to go to the fifth floor? Well, you must get off at three and walk up two flights of stairs. Floor seven? Well, six is pretty close, right?

This isn’t a design flaw or software malfunction: it’s all part of what what are called “neighborhoods.” Every three floors comprises a neighborhood, with elevators stopping at a common area with couches and a large flat-screen TV. In this area, vaulted ceilings reveal the open hallway balconies of the upper two floors.

Meant to create more social interaction among residents, this layout is unique among the more than 200 properties of American Campus Communities, the building’s owner and developer, said University Pointe Area Manager Lauren Gannon. Gannon lives in the building.

Walking past the bare concrete walls of a residence hallway toward a model room, the cool, moist feeling and orderly mess of exposed arm-sized conduits and multicolored Ethernet cables overhead gives a distinct bunker-like feel to the place. But, opening the door, much of that seems to melt away inside a comfortable, modern, furnished and decorated apartment.

Four private bedrooms share a common kitchen and living space, with four bathroom sinks spaced between two bath/shower combos. Other options include single-occupancy studios, two-bedroom and two-bath apartments for two people, and two-bedroom, two-bath apartments with roommates in each bedroom.

As a privately run building, though, there are some stark differences between this and and an average dorm. For one, nonstudents are allowed to live in the building alongside students. Alcohol is allowed, though not in common areas, for anyone 21 and over. Private security is employed, not Campus Public Safety officers.

Theoretically, therefore, any problem too big for the staff of 20 community assistants (students who live in the building rent-free in exchange for 15 hours of work each week) would be handled by the Portland Police Bureau. But the parts of the building leased by the university for classes and events are still considered school grounds, and are patrolled by the school’s safety officers up to a glass doorway that nearly cuts the ground floor in half.

Another possible source of contention is that, while students are bound to a lease with ACC, they are also bound by the PSU Student Code of Conduct.

This is University Pointe’s first quarter, and its future is uncertain. What is certain is its initial popularity.

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