The Utica College landscape has changed with the newest addition to the campus, Pioneer Village, which welcomed its first residents last week.
The three brand-new apartment-style buildings are full this year, accommodating a total of 144 residents, juniors, seniors and graduate students. The complex also includes a 183-space parking lot near the sports dome.
The new residence hall is located next to the tennis courts, a 10-minute walk from the main campus. The construction started last year and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on Oct. 10.
“Pioneer Village is an apartment complex with the intention of giving students the feel of being off campus but with the security of an on-campus facility,” Executive Director of Student Living and College Engagement Scott Nonemaker said. “We wanted to give juniors, seniors and grad students a real-world feel.”
Senior Vice President of Student Life and Enrollment Management Jeffery Gates revealed to the Observer-Dispatch that the project is part of a “public-private partnership between the college, the Utica Municipal Housing Authority and Albany-based BBL Construction Services.”
The SLCE office is in charge of area coordinators and resident assistants at Pioneer Village and, essentially, running the facility even though UC doesn’t “own any portion of it,” according to Nonemaker. Maintenance and the general state of the buildings are part of the Housing Authority’s role.
What differentiates Pioneer Village from other residence halls is that it is a functioning apartment with a fully equipped kitchen, four bedrooms with a full-sized bed, two bathrooms, a common living room area and a washer and dryer unit in every apartment, Nonemaker added.
“When the decision of building Pioneer Village was made three years ago, we needed additional space and at that time we were full,” Nonemaker said. “We also wanted to provide students with a better facility to live in.”
Building Pioneer Village was estimated to cost from $13 to $14 million, which was at BBL’s and the Housing Authority’s expense. However, UC will repay it through student rental monies, the executive director of the Utica Municipal Housing Authority Bob Calli said in an article for the Observer-Dispatch in early 2018.
According to Nonemaker, two reduced meal plans were created in order to make the cost of living in the new residence halls more affordable.
These special meal plans, the Blue and the Orange, include 90 and 185 meals per semester respectively, according to an informative newsletter released by the Student Living and College Engagement office.
Students living in Pioneer Village are still required to enroll in one of those two because “we wanted to make sure that they [students] have access to food,” he said.
To complement their meals, residents will also need to buy groceries themselves although Nonemaker stated that “it really depends on what our students eat.”
“Many people say they are going to eat every single meal but the reality is most of them only eat two meals a day,” he said.
In total per semester, housing expenses at Pioneer Village are $4,980, plus a $200 housing deposit, which is charged to all students living on campus, and one of the two meal plans, which are $750 (Blue) or $1,500 (Orange) per semester.
When addressing issues of on-campus housing affordability, the executive director of student living said that UC is no different from other colleges and that there are facilities which “tend to get out-dated but we do what we can.”
“Anybody would want a brand-new residence hall but that would cost a tremendous amount of money and we also want to improve all the other facilities around the campus.”
For Nonemaker, it all comes down to balancing between resident facilities and academic buildings and “making sure that all of our students, commuters and residents are happy with their education.”
Moving forward, the executive director of student living said he hopes that Pioneer Village will appeal to prospective students and that it will eventually “work towards increasing the school’s recruitment numbers.”
The resident selection process for Pioneer Village used the same standard point system applied to other residence halls.
Assistant Director for Student Living Marissa Finch said that those individuals or groups with the higher number of points “got to come in and meet with me and select their room.”
“[The in person selection] was actually kind of fun,” Finch expressed. “I was able to chat with the individuals about where they wanted to live and they were able to select based off of diagrams to choose their exact location with the view the wanted.”
Junior Victoria Lukashevich said she was interested in the reduced meal plan when she decided to apply for Pioneer Village.
“It was a lot cheaper than the other residential meal plans and you also get the freedom of living more off-campus but you still have the convenience that living on campus offers” she said.
Lukashevich said she enjoys having her own full-size bed, a laundry room in the apartment, as opposed to shared washers and dryers.
Being accepted at Pioneer Village was easy for Lukashevich since she’s a Resident Assistant.
“I chose three of my friends and we all got it automatically because I was an RA,” she said.
Her job also helped her with the cost of living in Pioneer Village since RA’s have their housing expenses covered although they still have to pay for a meal plan.
Lukashevich lived in Tower Hall last year.
“Tower Hall has much thicker walls because they’re concrete,” she said. “Here in Pioneer Village the walls are thinner and you can hear people having conversations sometimes and if you’re trying to go to sleep, it can be difficult.”
However, she stated that Pioneer Village is more spacious compared to Tower Hall.
Lukashevich also said her experience living in the new residence halls has been positive, except for other inconveniences such as wi-fi connection issues and the new proximity keys to enter the facilities not working at times. All of those issues have been fixed now, she said.
“People would get locked out of their rooms or the apartment and we’d have to call campus safety,” she said. “It’s happened twice so far but just because the equipment is still new.”
All in all, Lukashevich stated that it is worth it living in Pioneer Village and that it will appeal to more students in the future because of its “home” atmosphere.
“It’s not much more expensive if you compare it to other residence halls,” she said. “The price adds up to be almost the same.”
Senior Daniel Wilcox said he decided to apply to Pioneer Village because it was nicer than all the other residence halls that he had lived in.
“Living in Pioneer Village is like living in a hotel,” he said. “It is kind of preparing you for when it’s time to move on and start living on your own.”
Not having to worry about issues such as sharing the laundry room with dozens of other students or having a common bathroom with other roommates was something that Wilcox found to be important advantages.
However, the senior student also said he feels that there is less privacy in Pioneer Village than in other residence halls.
“The walls are thinner and you are kind of in one giant space with everyone,” Wilcox said. “You really can’t live here unless you’re a good communicator and you cooperate with many people.”
Wilcox also added that prospective residents should also expect to be trusting and be willing to share the amenities.
Compared to other residence halls, Wilcox stated that Pioneer Village is expensive but “for the things that you get, there is no way of finding off-campus housing with all of those amenities for the same price”
“The school needed a new residence hall,” he said. “However, they went overboard with some things like the door locks since keys would’ve saved a lot of money.”
Wilcox also added that some of the efforts could have been put towards installing ethernet ports or having an elevator, which presents issues to people with disabilities who would be restricted to live on the first floor.
According to Wilcox, “If you have three friends that you trust and you can cooperate with and you don’t mind the little extra walk to class, I would say it’s worth it living in Pioneer Village.”
$2oo housing deposit
$4,980 Pioneer Village (per semester)
$750 meal plan (per semester)
$600 groceries (per semester)
TOTAL COST PIONEER VILLAGE $6,530
$200 housing deposit
$2,948 Boehlert (per semester)
$3,155 Gold Meal Plan (per semester)
TOTAL COST BOEHLERT $6,303