It’s been almost a year since OSU Institute of Technology purchased two properties in downtown Okmulgee with the intention of renovating and restoring the buildings for student housing.
And while the buildings don’t look all that different, there has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on with the project, particularly on the former post office complex, referred to as the Grand Old Post Office, on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Fifth Street.
Last summer the OSU/A&M Board of Regents approved hiring an architectural firm and construction management firm to begin working on the project. The firms conducted focus groups with a variety of students from different programs and backgrounds to discover what students really want and need in student housing. Those firms then set about creating floor plans and renderings for the Grand Old Post Office property that consists of two connected buildings.
The board recently voted to allow construction to begin on the building with work slated to start in the spring.
OSUIT President Bill R. Path understands some think progress on the future student housing project is moving too slowly.
“You have to put the same amount time into planning for the restoration of a building as you do in constructing a new one, but in the meantime you still see an old building,” Path said. “Things will start happening this spring.”
And because the project is linked to a state-supported university, there are more steps and levels of authorization that must be in place before anyone can even swing a hammer.
“There are more extensive codes to meet because it is considered a student dormitory,” said Devin DeBock, dean of students.
Both said the wait will be worth it. The former post office will be converted into lofts and flats for 74 students. The building is expected to be ready to house students by the fall 2017 semester.
“It will offer greater flexibility for students to express their individuality and it will have that direct tie-in to downtown Okmulgee,” DeBock said. “We will see tremendous success because of all the involvement from students in these early stages.”
The ground floor of the Grand Old Post Office, with its exceptionally high ceilings, will feature 11 loft-style apartments with a living room, kitchen and bathroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. The ground floor and second floor will also offer 26 flat-style apartments with living room, kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms.
“You won’t have cookie-cutter dorms. The rooms will have their own characteristics,” he said.
The finished project will have a more urban and industrial feel with exposed brick walls and ceilings that harken back to the original building.
“It’s a nice marriage of nostalgia plus modern,” Path said, pointing out that while some of the original building’s elements will remain, the systems and conveniences will all be state-of-the-art including a new elevator and two ADA accessible flats.
The ground floor will also feature an outdoor patio area, lobby with study nooks, community kitchen, lounge and laundry facility as well as an office and living suite for an on-site manager.
“I’m really excited about the community spaces. They are individual areas that are connected together through doorways and windows. There are small pockets areas where students can study yet not be far from these community spaces,” DeBock said. “The synergy of a living and learning community is what we’re building toward.”
This future student housing option is aimed at a specific student population at OSUIT.
“We have a number of nontraditional students and they don’t necessarily want to live in a dorm-style housing complex,” Path said.
The downtown student housing will be available to students 21 years of age or older, DeBock said.
“What we’ve found is that many of these students are commuting from the Tulsa area or Muskogee area,” he said. “We want to offer them housing here in Okmulgee that can accommodate internship schedules.”
Path said while the downtown housing option will be considered premium student housing, it will be priced comparably to other housing options in the Okmulgee community.