KSU Foundation reevaluating Alumni Village, focusing on student-oriented projects

Alumni Village site across from KSU Alumni center. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State University Foundation is reevaluating its plans to build the K-State Alumni Village on Anderson Avenue south of Kansas State’s campus. The village will be a gated community catering to K-State alumni. The proposed townhome units in the village will range from $499,000 to $699,000, according to the Alumni Village’s website.

Greg Lohrentz, senior vice president of operations and finance at the KSU Foundation, said the construction would be financed by debt, without using any philanthropic funding, and then sold to individuals.

“It would be for highly engaged alumni and friends of the university,” Lohrentz said. “Primarily focused on some that would be primary homes, but some would be tertiary second or third homes when they’re coming in for high-engagement activities with K-State.”

Lohrentz said many K-State alumni expressed interest after the project’s announcement in spring 2020. However, he said excitement for the project has waned since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of families aren’t looking to travel and have tertiary homes,” Lohrentz said. “At the same time that that’s happened, construction costs have increased, so we’re continuing to evaluate the Alumni Village in general. We’re always evaluating projects. Situations always change, and so the Alumni Village still could be built, but we’re just evaluating market costs and the sites.”

Lohrentz said the Foundation is focusing on more student-oriented projects in the meantime.

“This project hasn’t been necessarily top of mind because we’re doing so much for student initiatives that are a higher priority than this project,” Lohrentz said. “We just got approval from the Regents to build a new dormitory in Salina, so the Foundation will be building 100 new beds for the increased enrollment there, for example.”

Lohrentz said other projects the Foundation is working on include the Tracz Family Band Hall. The Foundation is also considering how to best use the building in College Court after the Global Campus exited its lease and the former Ecumenical Campus Ministry building at 1021 Denison Avenue.

While the Foundation continues with these projects, Lohrentz addressed the pushback from some K-Staters about tearing down homes across from campus to build the Alumni Village, as reported by the Collegian on April 15, 2020. However, he said the move was a necessary one.

“Those houses — and I walked through them before they were demolished — they were significantly mature,” Lohrentz said. “As we evaluate the Alumni Village, the Foundation has not wavered that the right thing to do was to take those houses off the market because of their level of maturity across from campus.”

Lohrentz said the Foundation is continuing to help provide student housing, such as the new Salina dormitory project and the housing constructed next to the Bluemont Hotel.

John Lynch, senior in history, said he thinks the Foundation’s decision to reevaluate the Alumni Village is good, especially since he had a friend living in the houses before they were demolished.

“Seeing those houses being torn to build alumni apartments where people might come for a weekend for a football game and then sit empty most of the time at the expense of actual college students who are here nine or 12 months out of the year was a terrible move in the first place,” Lynch said.

Lynch said something like the Alumni Village would detract from students’ college experiences.

“While I understand there might be some benefits like a financial incentive for the university to get more alumni — alumni are going to have more money than students to spend at games or in the community around games — I don’t think the financial incentive should outweigh the collegiate experience that college athletics is based around,” Lynch said.

Caroline Turk, sophomore in relational communication, said she sees some of the Alumni Village’s appeal, as it would be a unique aspect of the university. However, she said the funding for the Alumni Village could be better used to help students on campus.

“It’s a lot more practical to use money towards something that will impact a larger amount of people more directly,” Turk said. “The student body that is active on campus is a lot larger than the amount of alumni that are active even in the Manhattan area. I think it’s a way better use of funds … to go towards the betterment of students on campus.”

Because of the Foundation’s commitment to improving students’ experiences at K-State, Lohrentz said construction of the Alumni Village would most likely begin at a later date.

“We continue to evaluate the market for the Alumni Village, but right now with construction costs where they’re at, and the significant activity we have with student-led projects that are not the Alumni Village, we’re just not looking at immediate movement on the Alumni Village,” Lohrentz said.

More information about the Alumni Village is available on its website.