Editor's Note: The printed version of this story contained a paragraph that stated the construction of Hilltop Housing Complex would be completed next fall, which is incorrect. The online version has been corrected to say that the project will be completed by the fall of 2024, according to Texas State Facilities.
Dust and cranes have taken up the hill above The Quad bus loop as construction on the Hilltop Housing Complex picks up again. The project was put on pause amidst COVID-19 but is now underway and on a trajectory to be completed by the fall of 2024.
Construction of the building began in 2019 with the demolition of Hornsby and Burleson Halls. The new dorm will have two structures that each will be seven stories and house 1006 beds, according to the facilities department. In May, contractors were given the notice to proceed with construction, moving its original completion date from the summer of 2021 to the fall of 2024.
William Mattera, executive director of housing at Texas State, oversees all operations regarding the project and said the decision to pause construction in 2020 was related to them not knowing how long COVID-19 would last and what enrollment would look like after.
“At that time, the administration made the decisions to pause construction until we figured out what would happen in a post-pandemic enrollment situation,” Mattera said.
Director of Housing Facilities Services Kyle Estes is involved in the facilities aspect of the project. His involvement with the construction includes aspects like design, construction schedule and completion of the project. He said they were proactive during the pause to avoid problems related to the construction later.
“I went to the construction people and said, 'I'm thinking this is what they're going to tell us. What steps do we need to take to be properly positioned to pull that trigger and still be on schedule for fall of '24?'" Estes said. “I sat down with some of my partners across in physical plant planning, zoning construction, we talked through what those milestones would be, what would have to happen by when.”
Estes discusses one of the most recent milestones: the second tower crane being brought to the site to get ready to work on the seven floors of both structures.
“The next milestone is the beginning of pouring our concrete moving vertical,” Estes said. “They're supposed to start going when I call vertical the first of November, and that's supposed to finish in May.”
There was a lot of planning on how construction would be affected by factors like widespread inflation costs as well as access to materials and overall shortages. These factors have caused adjustments in the process, creating a need to use different companies to do things like electrical or concrete work.
“Our general contractor, Vaughn, found that because of the personnel shortages, they didn't have people who could do that,” Estes said. “They hired one company to do the south building and one company to the north building so that you made sure you had the personnel to be able to get it all done on schedule.”
Hilltop was originally supposed to house 806 beds but is now going to house 1006. This change came from a variety of factors of trying to meet demands in a cost-effective way but also in plans for future renovation of other buildings on campus.
“As we continue to open new facilities, we look at other facilities in terms of renovation, replacement, those kinds of things,” Mattera said. “Transparently, the immediate demand we’re experiencing was not even part of the projection to build Hilltop. I am grateful that those 200 beds were added, but they were not necessarily added after that. That's the design that was already in place before we knew we were going to have a really full fall this summer.”
Freshmen are required to live on campus their first year and with a 14% increase in enrollment of first-year students this year, there were some shortages in housing. It is not clear if there is a correlation between Hilltop not being completed in 2021 to the lack of housing. As the trend of high enrollment was later in the summer Mattera said.
“If those 1000 beds were in the inventory, that wouldn't have been a challenge for us. It for sure would have softened it a little bit,” Mattera said. “Had we pulled some other levels of things we intended to do, we may have ended up in the same spot, right? Taking a building offline to do a renovation and already starting the work we would’ve been in the same spot.”
Mattera describes the university's master plan, which are conversations about what first year and returning students need in regard to future construction of buildings on campus.
“We are in the middle of having some of those conversations about what is an immediate need, what is future need and what is projected growth. We're trying to look at the problem from a long-term solution and not a short-term fix course," Mattera said.