Sullivan Brothers Builders is Helping Build the Abe & Annie Seibel Foundation Student Residences at Galveston College

Galveston College broke ground Wednesday on the Abe and Annie Seibel Foundation Student Residences, and launched a new era for student residency at the campus.

The groundbreaking ceremony was dedicated largely to thanking the Seibel Foundation for a $2.1 million donation that made the project possible, college President Myles Shelton said.

The residences are the second building project on the campus, 4015 Ave. Q, largely funded by the Seibel Foundation. The first was the Abe and Annie Seibel Wing of the campus student center.

The foundation’s primary purpose is to provide as many as 700 interest-free loans each year for Texas students to attend the college, said Lindsey Glover of Frost Wealth Advisors, trustee for the foundation. Representing the family at the groundbreaking was Jean Rosenbaum.

The project marks a change in direction for the community college, which will be able to house 80 students in a row of seven two-story buildings and in garage apartments behind them, bringing the total number of residential students to 110. Previously, the college housed about 30 student athletes on campus.

Construction is set to begin this month on property the college owns and will require the demolition of four houses.

“We’ve owned those houses for a while and rented them to students,” Shelton said. “But this is a more effective use of space, given that each of the buildings will house 10 students.”

The seven units are designed to resemble the historical homes of Galveston with front-facing porches and balconies and large, shuttered windows. Creole Design, of Houston, created architectural plans for the housing units and Sullivan Brothers Builders, of Galveston, will manage construction.

The cost of the project is about $4 million — $2.6 million for construction, $75,000 for land development and a fee of about $655,000, 25 percent of actual construction costs, to be paid to Sullivan Brothers.

The project is expected to be completed and the buildings occupied by fall semester of 2020.

Galveston College joins other junior colleges and community colleges around the country in offering student housing on a campus that has historically relied on commuter students to fill its classrooms. About 25 percent of community college campuses in the United States now offer housing to at least some of their students, according to the Community College Review.

“It’ll be great for there to be some housing for students in my program,” said Paul Mendoza, who heads the culinary arts program at Galveston College. “I’ve had students who wanted to come here but whose parents didn’t want them renting an apartment in Galveston.”

As rental costs have risen in Galveston, it has become more and more difficult for students from other cities to find affordable places to rent, Shelton said earlier this year.

At the groundbreaking, college officials emphasized the importance of students being on campus to make connections with one another and to increase the likelihood of graduating.

“When the board of regents looks at major initiatives like this one, the focus is always on student success and a positive impact on the community,” said Karen Flowers, president of the board of regents.

Galveston College serves about 2,300 students each semester in associate degree programs and nearly 5,000 people annually in continuing education programs. The college announced last year that its first bachelor’s degree program will begin in 2019 in healthcare management with a bachelor’s degree program in nursing to follow in 2020 or 2021.