Southern Hills complex to get flattened

Southern Hills, an isolated and deteriorating graduate student-housing complex, will soon be torn down, a University Housing administrator said.

Lisa Marks, associate director of University Housing, said students are being phased out of the apartment complex, but Southern Hills will not be replaced anytime soon.

“We are currently in the fourth year of a five-year closure schedule,” Marks said in an email. “While not within the first four phases of the plan, providing new efficiency apartments is an option.”

A vacated Southern Hills apartment window reflects an empty playground Thursday afternoon. The complex on the southeast corner of campus, leased by University Housing, was previously considered family housing but is now only available to single graduate students, according to the University Housing website. Bill Richardson, University Housing clerk at Southern Hills, said a majority of the buildings have been shut down since the summer, and only the front six are still operational while the university phases out the complex.
Tiffany Blanchette | Daily Egyptian

Bill Richardson, a clerk at Southern Hills, said Southern Hills has already phased out a majority of buildings. Of the 17 buildings, only the six closest to the front of the complex remain open, he said.

Potential spots for a new complex on the west side of campus are being explored, Marks said.

She said maintenance costs have become too expensive to keep the complex running.

“Southern Hills has exceeded its useful life,” she said.

Marks said many residents have chosen to move to Evergreen Terrace, another graduate student housing complex the campus plans to renovate soon. Other student housing options include 21-and-older floors in the Brush Towers for single students as well as Wall and Grand Apartments for those who wish to live with others, she said.

The architecture firm Brailsford and Dunlavey polled Southern Hills residents about their opinions on the complex’s future; a request for comment from the firm regarding future plans for the complex was not returned by press time.

Southern Hills is sprawled out over woods south of the Brush Towers. Some buildings lack siding, second-level railings are starting to wear and playground equipment has rusted over. Also, a giant sandbox in the middle of the community playground has become overgrown with weeds.

Marks said most residents’ maintenance requests involve plumbing and appliance issues, and University Housing still provides a 24/7 hotline to residents at the complex.

Richardson said even though the buildings will be torn down soon, Southern Hills’ quietness and proximity to campus continues to attract students.

“I believe (Southern Hills) is something like 60 years old now, and it really needs some plumbing work,” he said. “We can’t afford to tear open the walls and replace the plumbing.”

Richardson said the sprinkler system could be an issue. While campus residence halls are required to have up-to-code sprinkler systems by 2013, according to Illinois Public Act 4361, Southern Hills does not have an acceptable system, he said.

He said problems with boilers are a hassle. Apartments are all hooked to one boiler system, he said, and the air conditioning system becomes useless when they are turned on.

However, Richardson said many buildings with frequent cooling issues have been phased out. When it was an issue, he said, maintenance workers were quick to fix it.

Students living in Southern Hills pay $499 per month for an efficiency unit, $541 for a one-bedroom unit, and $575 for a two-bedroom unit. Unlike Evergreen Terrace, all utilities are included in rent at Southern Hills.

Feng Yu, a graduate assistant in computer science from China, said the quality of living is sufficient for the cost of the apartment.

The buildings fit a bachelor lifestyle, he said. Instead of requiring students to live together, like a residence hall, students can rent their own apartments. He said including all utilities in the rent is also a plus.

Yu said his apartment is not of the highest quality, but it’s not bad either.  As an international student on a budget, he said the rent and utilities are cheap.

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About Karsten Burgstahler

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at kburgstahler@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.255.

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