Indiana State University’s plan for downtown student housing has finally become reality.

The student housing portion of “500 Wabash” is nearing completion, and Thompson Thrift Development anticipates turning it over to the university as early as this week; ISU is leasing the four top stories of the five-story retail/housing complex.

“It looks fabulous,” said Diann McKee, ISU vice president for business affairs and finance. “They’ve done a very nice job with it, and l think our students will really enjoy living there.”

The residential portion features 75 apartment units with 260 bedrooms that will serve primarily upper-level and graduate students. Most apartments have four bedrooms, although there also are some three-, two- and one-bedroom units as well as a few studio apartments. Each has a kitchen, living space and private bathroom; units with three or four bedrooms have two bathrooms.

The 500 Wabash housing is already fully leased, McKee said. It became fully occupied almost immediately after ISU began taking housing applications and offering contracts for the next academic year.

As soon as ISU has use of the facility, it will begin delivering furniture in preparation for student move-in, which will take place in August, McKee said. ISU is furnishing the apartments, as it does for other student housing.

As part of a public-private partnership, Thompson Thrift constructed and owns the five-story retail/housing complex, which sprawls along the 500 block of Wabash Avenue from Fifth to Sixth streets. Thompson Thrift is responsible for leasing the ground-floor retail space.

The project cost is about $22.7 million, said Adam Fischer, project manager for Thompson Thrift. ISU’s portion of the facility has about 103,000 square feet of space, while the first floor has about 22,000 square feet.

“We are in the final days of completing ISU’s portion of the project,” Fischer said, and the building’s exterior is also close to completion. “It’s really pretty nice living quarters,” he said during a tour Tuesday morning.

Apartments have similar layouts, and each kitchen is equipped with a refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, oven and microwave. Each floor will have two lounge areas and laundry rooms.

Some of the rooms offer “spectacular” views of the downtown Terre Haute landscape, said McKee, who previously toured the building but was interviewed by phone.

On the second floor, corner apartments at each end along Wabash feature storefront windows that are two stories high. The apartment on the west end has two arched windows that offer a clear view of Fifth and Wabash, a room that no doubt will be in high demand in future years, as will others, Fischer said.

As for the building’s exterior, “It looks like multiple buildings, and that was done on purpose,” Fischer said. It has different facades — a mix of brick, terra cotta and metal panels. “We didn’t want it to look like one giant, monolithic building.”

Students who reside at 500 Wabash will be able to park on campus with a permit, and arrangements also have been made for them to park at the SkyGarden parking facility downtown; prices will be the same as for the Cherry Street garage, McKee said.

Work on the first floor retail space is finished for now, with the “shell space” complete and utilities in place, Fischer said. There are no tenants yet, and whether future tenants or Thompson Thrift build out the space “is yet to be determined,” Fischer said. 

Currently, Thompson Thrift is negotiating with potential tenants for a restaurant on the southwest corner of the first floor. “That is the anchor space,” and the priority is to get that finalized before moving on to other tenants, he said.

He could not identify prospective restaurants interested in the space.

There are no “finish” plans yet for the retail spaces “until we are further along with lease activity,” he said. “We’ve had lots of interest for different types of uses.”

Thompson Thrift would like to be further along with tenants, “but that’s just the nature of it. Hopefully, we will be in a position to announce something soon,” Fischer said.

According to McKee, each student who resides at what is called 500 Wabash will pay $9,900 for a 12-month contract or $8,100 for an academic year. ISU encourages students to enter into a contract for the entire year.

The housing project culminates years of study and follows through on the university’s 2009 master plan. “It’s unlike anything else we have available on campus,” McKee said.

Many view 500 Wabash as a transformational project that will serve as a catalyst for other downtown development. “A lot of exciting things are happening downtown,” McKee said. “It think it’s very satisfying for the university and the local community.”

ISU is planning a ribbon-cutting/open house during the first week of August, which will include public tours of the furnished apartments, said Teresa Exline, chief of staff to the ISU president. Date and time are still being finalized.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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