University apartment construction starts soon

By Gus Bode

High-end buildings to cost $26 million

University Housing will soon begin construction on what officials have called a high-end, $26 million apartment complex.

“We hope to do groundbreaking sometime next month, no later than August 1,” University Housing director Ed Jones said.


Ceremonial groundbreaking, complete with golden shovels and prominent public figures in hard hats, will follow in mid-August when the student body returns to campus, Jones said.

Unlike current housing apartments, these will be open to undergraduate students.

The complex will be built on the northwest corner of the Grand Avenue and Wall Street intersection. It will include three apartment buildings, a courtyard and a fountain. The four bedrooms units come with two bathrooms and furniture. On the ground floor, there will be a convenience store, Internet caf and small eateries, Jones said.

Last week, contractors returned bids indicating construction of the actual buildings would cost a total of $15.5 million and an additional $10 million for things like wiring and plumbing, said Phil Gatton, director of the physical plant.

“It’s on budget,” Gatton said. “We were real nervous, but the bids came in good. Now we have a timeline.”

While the bid still needs to be officially ratified by the Board of Trustees, Gatton said he expects an affirmative answer at any moment.

The first students will move into apartments shortly after the fall 2006 semester begins, and the whole structure will be open by October of that year.


Residents who live in University Housing during spring 2006 will have the first chance to reserve rooms, Jones said. Officials hope the new building will fill a niche on campus.

“A lot of students live in residence halls for a year and then they want to live in an apartment,” Jones said. “Right now, University Housing doesn’t have that.”

Housing officials do not expect the new complex to trigger a mass exodus from residence halls, because the new building is expected to attract students who prefer off-campus apartments.

The new complex is intended to make things easier on students. While four people will share one apartment, they all will have separate rooms and separate contracts. Unlike a lot of off-campus housing, utilities and cable will be included in the rent, and everything will be regulated because the building will be held accountable to the University.

As for the dreaded practice fire drills that pull students in residence halls out of bed at 4 a.m., Jones called them a necessary evil. Resident assistants will not be present in the new building, but a body of overseers will enforce rules.

“Students’ primary purpose down here is an education, and we don’t want anything to interfere with that,” Jones said.

The complex is only the first major construction in the housing master plan, an agenda set to improve on-campus housing. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2008 on a similar complex near the intersection of Mill Street and Poplar Street, and a complete overhaul of Greek Row is scheduled for 2010, Jones said.

The Board of Trustees must approve all future construction projects.

Reporter Zack Quaintance can be reached at [email protected].