Manhattan, K-State share symbiotic relationship in pursuit of growth

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Photo by Taylor Alderman | The Collegian One of the many locations under construction for repairs and updates around campus is near Anderson Hall where new underground electrical cables are being installed.

Whether on campus or off, students in Manhattan can easily find construction projects going on. The National Bio and Agro-Defense facility remains under construction, while K-State recently began renovating the Engineering Complex and has also begun preparations for the construction of Wefald Hall.

Jeff Morris, vice president of communications and marketing, said there are also many repairs and updates being done on campus, such as near Anderson Hall where new underground electrical cables are being installed.

“The facilities folks are real busy right now,” Morris said. “This is their time.”

The new residence hall and the renovations to the complex are expected to bring many benefits to campus. However, K-State’s campus is not the only area affected by construction.

“The city is currently in the process of updating our city plan with Riley and Pottawataomie county,” Eric Cattell, assistant director for planning for the City of Manhattan, said. “Student housing is one of the things we’re looking at.”

Cattell said the city and the university keep each other informed when new construction is being considered.

“Each entity keeps the other informed pretty well on what’s being planned in the future so it’s less reactive,” Cattell said.

Cattell said Wefald Hall is an example of this.

“The city has done some sewer and water master planning to identify infrastructure that might need to be upgraded to accommodate future growth,” Cattell said.

He also said that Manhattan and K-State have been working together since the city plan was last updated in 2000. At the time, K-State officials met with the local governments, so the city had a reasonably good idea of what to expect as K-State grew.

However, Cattell said that how Wefald Hall will impact the housing market in the area remains unclear.

“The dorm itself is probably going to be a relatively small blip on the housing market,” Cattell said.

Cattell said construction going on in Manhattan includes the Bluemont Hotel, the new CivicPlus building downtown and many homes near the Colbert Hills Golf Course.

K-State has its own major projects in addition to Wefald Hall. In addition to the $76 million for the building of the new residence hall and the renovations of Marlatt and Goodnow, the new building for the College of Business administration has been allocated $55 million. Parts of Bill Snyder Family Stadium will also be renovated in different stages, Morris said.

“Coming up in the next year or two, they’re going to do the Vanier [Football] Complex at the football stadium,” Morris said.

The east side of the stadium is also expected to be torn down and redone, similar to what was done on the west side, according to Morris. Memorial Stadium’s west side is also currently being renovated and will house the Purple Masque Theatre after completion. Morris said once that project is complete, the east side of Memorial Stadium will be renovated to house the new K-State Welcome Center.

Between all of the renovations and construction on campus, Morris said he estimates nearly $200 million is being spent on the various projects. However, not all of that funding is coming from the same source. For instance, the new building for the business school will be almost entirely funded from private donations, according to Morris.

“Almost everything we see right now is a combination of private funds and other funding sources,” Morris said. “What’s changed over the last few years is we’ve started to see buildings being built by private money.”

The K-State Student Union, Morris said, is an example of another source: student funding. Last year, the Student Governing Association voted to have students fund the renovations to the Union.

For Wefald Hall, bonds will initially help its funding, Morris said. Bonds are often used for dining halls and residence halls, and are often paid off by the revenue they generate from those who use them, such as residents of the halls or patrons of the dining halls. Bond lengths may vary, some being five years, 10 years, or even 20 years. The expenses however, Morris said, don’t end there.

“We use our buildings for a lot of years, so once you have them paid for you have to pay to keep them working,” Morris said. “You may pay off the bond and then it’s time to renovate.”

What gets renovated is often chosen with an aim of accommodating new student needs or desires, such as replacing rooms with suites, or rewiring to add more electrical outlets to each room, Morris said.

“You always have to sort of look ahead and account,” Morris said.

According to Morris, the process for selecting which companies do the actual work is extensive. The Division of Facilities has a committee that goes out and handles the selection in accordance with both state and university regulations.

“It’s a very formal and transparent process,” Morris said.

Bob Isaac, county planner for Riley County, said students at K-State and soldiers from Fort Riley have made it challenging for Riley County to estimate population increases. Back in 2009, when the county came up with its plan for protecting the agricultural areas around Riley County, Isaac said the estimated population growth was 1 percent.

According to Issac, that has proven to be a little bit on the low side, partly because of a new approach being taken by some parents with students attending K-State. Some parents have recently begun buying houses within the city, then renting them to their kids and roommates. After the houses have been paid for, parents have often sold them and used the profit made from the appreciation of the house to recover costs from the original purchase and help pay off their childrens’ student loans.

“It’s a great idea,” Isaac said. “There’s just only so many houses.”

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Shelton Burch
Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.