University Housing to get new look

By Gus Bode

The university’s housing plan will include new residence halls on the east side of campus within the next 10 years.

Chancellor Rita Cheng proposed the updated plan at the SIU Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 8, which includes demolition of the Brush Towers after construction of dormitories nearby, renovation of Thompson Point, and rebuilding Greek Row and graduate housing.

“I think it is widely recognized that our housing is aging, and we will need to address it with new housing as well as fixing up what we have,” Cheng said.

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Mae Smith Hall is among the two towers of Brush Towers scheduled to be torn down during the next 10 years and replaced with new low-rise residence halls. The cost will be around 71.5 million. Chancellor Rita Cheng said the towers are aging structures, a problem that needs to be addressed. Jessica Tezak | Daily Egyptian

She said the university brought in an outside firm to evaluate both the condition and market for student housing.

“We knew that we had deferred maintenance, and we wanted to make sure that we had an expert eye on all the various dimensions of student housing,” Cheng said.

Cheng said at the Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday two of the four-story dorms will be built on the east side of campus before the demolition of one tower, then the dining hall will be renovated. Afterward, the two other four-story dorms will be built before the university tears down the other tower.

SIU President Glenn Poshard said he thinks the plan looks feasible and could help enrollment.

The construction of the residence halls is expected to cost the university $171.5 million, said Kevin Bame, vice chancellor for admissions and finance. He said instead of increasing tuition to meet the budget, the university will raise room rates.

A student’s housing bill consists of room rates and meal rates. Bame said the room rates will rise by 6 percent in 2012, 6 percent again in 2013 and 6 percent again 2014. In 2015, he said, the room rates will rise by 5 percent. They will rise by 5 percent again in 2016 and once more in 2017. Finally, the room rates will increase by 4 percent in 2018 and again by 4 percent in 2019.

Bame said it would be hard to predict if the rates would increase past 2019 because it’s too far in the future to know. He said he thinks housing will still be affordable for students, though, because SIU already has some of the cheapest housing plans in the state.

“We believe we have some room to grow the room rates and still be competitive within the state of Illinois, and provide new housing options for our incoming students,” Bame said.

The other housing projects could possibly be worked on at the same time as east campus, he said. The university isn’t sure of the cost of Greek Row or graduate housing, Bame said, but it will likely be funded by a private-public partnership. He said this means an outside developer would build the facility and handle the debt service before turning over ownership of the building to the university. It would have a different financial model because the university wouldn’t own the facilities.

“In other words, we’re leveraging someone else’s capital to construct the building, and then through a land lease we’ll collect rent, pay the developer, and then at some point down the road the developer would turn the ownership of the building over to the university,” Bame said. “So it’s another mechanism for financing.”

Cheng said at the Faculty Senate meeting graduate housing could be built in either Southern Hills or on Greek Row. She also said the artist’s depiction of the layout of the plan will be available online soon.

Poshard said the board of trustees will look over the plan in the next several months.

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