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Posted: Monday, April 4, 2011 9:00 pm

"The Gee" isn't quite a dorm and not quite an apartment building, but the brand-new building is the most unique housing option available to Gonzaga students.

Owner and designer Buzz Price built the Gee to attract Gonzaga students looking for "community."

"Residents will not be living next to each other," he said. "They'll be living with each other."

The three-story house, located on the corner of Hamilton Street and Nora Avenue, has 14 individual bedrooms. What makes the building unique, however, are the common areas that "the 14" will share.

In an effort to give residents "more than any other student housing option," Price built a kitchen with "restaurant size and style" appliances and a theater room with three HD televisions. The TV theater was inspired by a golf club Price once visited. "They had three TVs set up over a jacuzzi," he said. "I thought it was just excessive enough to work."

The overall layout of the house is inspired by New Orleans, which Price says is his favorite city to visit. The hallways on the two upper floors look down on the kitchen/hallway area on the first floor, a look that is similar to how balconies in New Orleans look down on a city street.

The luxurious common areas ensure that the 14 residents living in the Gee will spend time together, outside of their bedrooms. Price is hoping that whoever lives in the house will form a community. "Students will have to work together," he said. "They'll have to make up some of their own rules."

Price will interview and pick the first 14 residents himself. He says he is confident that the students he chooses to occupy the Gee will be responsible and well-behaved. "I believe that the Gonzaga student is a different class of student," he said. "The students here are the right kind of student."

Price hopes that the sense of community he thinks the building will foster will set the Gee apart from other housing options, but he is seeking something else that would make the Gee unique – LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. If and when the building gains this certification, it would be the first group residence in Spokane to earn LEED Platinum status – the highest certification for an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly building.

The Gee's green design started with the construction. "We used locally produced components from Spokane," Price said. Even the small parking lot behind the building is made of concrete instead of asphalt (which contains oil).

Price designed the building but is an engineer, not an architect. He hired Active West Builders from Coeur d'Alene for construction. The company, which specializes in environmentally friendly projects, claims that "All construction waste from the demo of the existing building to the construction waste is over 90 percent recyclable."

Active West Builders says that the airflow in the building and the high-quality materials they used to build it will ensure the building has the "cleanest air quality of any building in the area." Airflow shouldn't be a problem — the glass wall that separates the kitchen from the front yard can be rolled up to open the building to the outside air.

The Gee will be comfortable in bad weather, too – the building has a "radiant heat" system to go along with individual heaters/air conditioners in each bedroom. Price said that during construction in the winter, "We had it at 30 percent capacity and it was 60 degrees the whole time and we hadn't even insulated the whole place yet."

"We want you to live in a nice place but not feel guilty about living in a nice place," Price said.

Price said he thinks he has topped what he considers the benchmark for Gonzaga student housing – Kennedy Apartments. The bedrooms are one foot in each direction bigger than Kennedy's rooms. Like a dorm, each room will come fully furnished with furniture and a full-size bed – or, as Price puts it, "You will move in here with your backpack."

 Price said that the rooms will cost "just under what Kennedy costs." Students interested in living in the Gee, which opens in June, should attend one of the upcoming open house events. On April 15, the open house will be from 3 to 7 p.m., and on April 16 it will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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