Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Hub

The Hub (all photos by me unless otherwise noted)

The August meeting of the Construction Specifications Institute - Willamette Valley Chapter featured a tour of the massive new Hub on Campus, strategically sited at 515 East Broadway (on Franklin Boulevard) between Eugene's downtown core and the University of Oregon. A large group turned out for the privilege of a sneak peek at the latest of the recent crop of privately developed student housing projects.

The Hub is a prime example of the nationwide trend toward the construction of luxury student housing by private developers. More and more, students (and their indulgent parents) expect hip, amenity-laden, lavish housing options. Each successive project in the competitive market seemingly outdoes its rivals. It's gotten to the point where these developments more closely resemble vacation resorts than the Spartan lodging I and my fellow baby-boomers endured during our years at the good ol' alma mater.

Vicinity map: the University of Oregon is highlighted in yellow; downtown Eugene is at the left edge of the map
The Hub’s developer, Chicago-based Core Campus (now Core Spaces), is one of the major players in the lucrative student-housing market. The company’s website proclaims how it has “revolutionized student housing style—and lifestyle.” The goal for its Eugene project was to capitalize on a great location by providing “an unparalleled living experience . . . in tune with the needs of today’s college students.” Notably, all of Core Campus’ future student housing projects will also be named “Hub.” The intent is to develop a brand and the promise of that brand’s quality, from campus-to-campus, city-to-city. 
Notably, Core Campus hired local contractor John Hyland Construction to build its Eugene project.(1) Two key members of the Hyland team—Shaun Hyland, president of the company; and Mark Brabham, Hyland’s project manager—served as our guides for the tour of the Hub. Shaun is justifiably proud of his company’s role in the landmark project. He described Core Campus as a very involved, easy to work for, lean, and youthful company. 

Shaun Hyland
The architect for the project was Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) of Chicago. Following Core Campus’ lead, HPA also brought on local talent to be part of its team: KPFF performed civil and structural engineering services, Schirmer/Satre Group was the landscape architect, and Interface Engineering provided M/E/P design. 2fORM Architecture assisted HPA, serving as the local “boots-on-the-ground” when required.
Shaun enthusiastically enumerated some of the Hub's superlatives: 
  • 12 stories above grade (the tallest building constructed in Eugene in many years)
  • 232,000 square feet, including 4,700 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and 16,000 square feet of shared amenities, plus a panoramic 8,300 square foot rooftop deck
  • 183 units with 513 total beds in apartments of assorted configurations (studio, 1-bed, and multiple bedroom plans)
  • Secure, multi-level underground parking
  • A direct construction cost of $40 million
  • Targeting LEED Silver certification
    HPA rendering of the rooftop amenities

    Of course, the feature that elicited the biggest “oohs” and “ahhs” from everyone during our tour was the impressive list of jaw-dropping amenities:
    • Heated resort-style pool with hot tub on the roof deck
    • Gaming cabana with 80” outdoor TV and billiards table
    • Rooftop regulation-size outdoor sand volleyball court
    • Large fire pit and lounge area
    • Star and landscape-gazing 20x telescope(s)
    • Sundeck with lounge chairs and tables
    • Expansive Club Room with billiards table, foosball, Golden T, and arcade games
    • Media wall with 15’ recessed fireplace
    • Outdoor fire pit, BBQ area, lounge, and hot tub
    • Fitness complex with state-of-the-art fitness equipment
    • Yoga room
    • Rejuvenating Resident Spa with sauna, steam room, and indoor tanning beds
    • Business Center with Mac’s, PC’s, and printer
    • Spacious private study rooms
    • Video conferencing facilities
    • Controlled-access scholar floors
    • Secure bicycle storage with bike repair station
    • 9-foot ceilings in all units
    • Cable TV (including HBO and select international stations) and WiFi Internet
    • Full-size washer and dryer in each unit
    • Electronic key access
    • In-unit bike storage
    • Air conditioning in every unit
    • Upscale stainless steel appliances including refrigerator with icemaker, smooth-top range, oven, undercabinet-mounted microwave, and dishwasher
    • Keurig™ Coffee systems in all units
    • Black quartz countertops
    • High-end Moen™ plumbing fixtures
    • 42” LED HD flat-screen TV mounted in each living room
    • Designer custom cabinetry
    • Large operable windows
    • Built-in dry bar with beverage cooler
    • USB outlets in bedrooms
    • Walk-in closets
     The rooftop pool
    Sand volleyball court on the roof
    2nd floor outdoor lounge

    Central courtyard. The tree is artificial.

    Pivoting glass door to the courtyard from the Club Room

    Club Room

    Fitness Center

    A flock of rubber duckies in the Club Room

    Typical unit kitchen
    Imagine the (beer-lubricated) poolside parties on the roof. Oh, to be a college student again, and well-heeled. As fellow tour-goer Greg Brokaw aptly quipped, the Hub is an opulent “cruise ship,” albeit a landlocked one.

    This level of luxury doesn’t come cheap. Monthly rents start at $689 per bed in a 5-bedroom unit, and top out at $1,225 for 1-bedroom units. Despite the relatively high costs, the Hub isn’t having trouble finding tenants.

    Typical 3-bedroom unit plan
    This was a huge project for Hyland; previously, the company had not constructed a building taller than six stories. There definitely was a learning curve for everyone; regardless, Hyland worked quickly to complete construction in less than 18 months. Core Campus has been so pleased with Hyland’s performance that Shaun reported his company is already working with the developer on an even-larger Hub in downtown Portland near the campus of Portland State University.

    So what about the architecture? What do I think of the design?

    The principal issue I take with the project is its massive bulk. Maybe Eugene will grow up around it, but for now it seems overly big. The Hub dominates its surroundings and looms over the sidewalks. “Svelte” isn’t an adjective one associates with the building. 
    The architects, HPA, would probably take exception to my assessment. The firm’s website described its design intent as follows: 
    “To activate the streetscape, cube-like forms sculpt the fa├žade, delineate building use, and break up the scale. A contrasting metal slat wraps around each face to articulate the forms on all sides. At the base, a continuous green screen softens the transition between the building and site.”

    A “green screen” softening the transition between building and site? I must have missed that somehow.
     Looking up from the 2nd floor outdoor lounge

    My criticism notwithstanding, it was obvious to everybody on the tour that the Hub has set a very high bar for student housing in Eugene. The level of finishes and amenities is undoubtedly impressive. The project will add significantly to the (near) downtown population, furthering the City of Eugene’s goal of concentrating compact development in the metro area’s core rather than sprawling expansion on the periphery of the city’s urban growth boundary. In this regard, its large size is a boon for downtown and a step in the right direction.

    It may also be the last of its kind, at least for a while. The Hub was the last student housing project the City of Eugene approved under its MUPTE program (in its renewed form, MUPTE does not list student housing developments as eligible for the property tax exemption). The student housing boom seems to have abated somewhat, which will allow Eugene time to absorb the substantial inventory of new beds added in recent years.

    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Thanks to Shaun Hyland and Mark Brabham for leading the tours of the Hub. The project stands as a fantastic tribute to the team at John Hyland Construction and its subcontractors. Congratulations on a job well done! 
    (1)   Contrast this with Capstone Companies use of Tennessee-based Construction Enterprises, Inc. as the general contractor for its controversial downtown Eugene project.  

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