News | September 26, 2016

Eagle-SpottingFeaturedNewsStudent Life

Life’s a beach in North Lake Village’s future

5 - minute read

Although the sugar-sand shore along the Gulf of Mexico is roughly 10 miles from Florida Gulf Coast University’s main campus, the impression that FGCU is a “beach campus” only swelled with the wave of media hype triggered by the Dunk City phenomenon of 2013, when FGCU stormed the NCAA Sweet Sixteen.

Thanks to a longtime dream of university planners, that perception moves closer to reality when a $7.7 million project breaks ground in October on the lakefront at FGCU’s northern border. Once it’s completed by late summer 2017, the North Lake Village Outdoor and Dining Project will get FGCU as close to the sand, boardwalk and beach munchies as freshwater surf allows.

Rendering of new dining hall by Studio+ Architecture
Rendering of new dining hall by Studio+ Architecture

“We’re unlocking the potential to be the campus by the beach, and that’s what this is all about,” said Brian Fisher, director of FGCU Housing and Residence Life. “Our goal is to transform this area into a place where faculty, staff and students will want to visit on a daily basis — one of the primary destinations our community has every day.”

One of the marketing catchphrases of The FGCU Effect is “It Started With Land and a Grand Plan,” and in that light, this new project “Started with a Lake and a Candid Take” on NLV — that it was outdated and underutilized.

“We think of our university as new, but North Lake Village is our oldest housing location; its oldest phase was built 18 years ago,” Fisher said. “We need to invest in it. This is a great example of us coming back to do something we wish we’d done earlier, but didn’t have the resources to do.”

Fisher said while the project has been bandied about since he first arrived on campus 10 years ago, lack of funding put it on the shelf until drawings and concepts began taking shape about two years ago. Now, faced with competition from off-campus housing options for upperclassmen who make up the NLV community — although FGCU housing is still at 98 percent occupancy, this academic year is the first in the past six it hasn’t been at full capacity, Fisher said — university officials believe making the waterfront area a place-to-be destination with added amenities will give students less reason to go elsewhere for room and board.

Rendering by Studio+ Architecture
Rendering by Studio+ Architecture

“Upperclassmen have choices, and we want to make sure we give them a reason to stay on campus a second, third or fourth year,” Fisher said. “This project gives us an opportunity to compete.”

Some highlights of the renovation, which Fisher emphasizes is a “university project, not just a housing project”:

  • A $3.5 million dining hall managed by university vendor Chartwells that brings the first formal food service to NLV, which houses almost 2,000 students in four-bedroom, two-bath apartments, each with a living room and kitchen. The diverse menu will include “lots of comfort food,” Fisher said, citing such college-student staples as pizza, wings and burgers.
  • The main dining room will share space with a separate “We Proudly Serve” Starbucks location, with the non-corporate outlet giving the university flexibility in its offerings, which Fisher envisions being, besides coffee, feel-good treats such as gelato, shakes and other cold-dessert-type products. “To complement the waterfront feel, the beach feel, you’ll be able to have a shake and burger along the boardwalk,” he said.
  • Ah yes, the boardwalk — well, actually, it’s a paverwalk. “It will be similar to what we used on the library lawn,” Fisher said. “In fact, it’s the same architect, and that’s intentional. We want to replicate the themes you feel on campus at some of our other locations, to enhance the ‘FGCU feel.’” The multicolored brick path will span from Building R on the far west edge of the lakefront property all the way to Campus Recreation’s watersports area, replete with classic, traditional street lighting and wooden benches.
  • Look for enhanced, bigger gathering spaces, which Fisher says are “very underutilized right now. We’re adding four additional locations to serve different purposes. We don’t have a lot of common spaces, and now we’ll take advantage of our outdoor spots and make them inviting enough to use every day.” Among the gathering spots will be a 16-foot, hexagon-shaped gazebo adjacent to the boardwalk near the dining area, which joins two smaller shade structures.

When all is done, the NLV lakefront will be transformed into a place where walkers, joggers, skateboarders and bicycle riders share a scenic, long path with people studying, meeting, playing sand volleyball, enjoying an ice cream sundae or a sit-down meal, swimming and sunbathing. Fisher sees the area developing its own community-unto-itself atmosphere, much like first-year students experience in South Lake Village.

Build it, he says, and we will come.

“One thing I’ve discovered is that many of those who are on campus almost every day come to the waterfront once or twice, and that’s it,” Fisher said. “That won’t be the case anymore. In years to come, I think you’ll see a lot of the university’s signature events come over here. The potential is unlimited. It’ll be so inviting that we’ll look for opportunities to come back over and over again.”

Jenny Murray, a junior NLV resident from Naperville, Ill., who plans to return to the complex next academic year pending her acceptance into the nursing program, sees a more active beach area as a way to build better student camaraderie.

“The way the apartments are set up here, it’s not like in South Lake Village, where rooms are next to each other, you meet more people, more students use the pool because it’s like a resort,” Murray said. “The boardwalk is going to be huge. It’ll build a better sense of community, give us more reason to go out and enjoy the nice weather, encourage more students to realize the great thing we have here.

“When people say they don’t like it here, it’s usually because they never got involved,” Murray said. “This will be a way to get more people involved, to really enhance the experience here.”

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