Housing shortage to last until 2003

Liz Bogut

The Days Inn could still be home to hundreds of freshmen through 2003, even after adding about 1,000 new spots to University housing.
Members of a Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee said Thursday the University will not be able to meet demands for student housing in the next few years, despite plans to increase the number of spaces.
A cross-functional team charged with examining student housing determined high retention rates among students living in campus housing is contributing to the ongoing housing shortage.
“At University Village, 350 out of 400 students want to come back next fall,” said Mary Ann Ryan, director of Housing and Residential Life.
Ryan said about 400 to 900 additional spaces will be in demand even after all expansion plans are completed by 2003.
The availability of student housing is also strained by the University’s commitment to house freshmen.
“One of the two primary factors in the housing problem is the commitment to house incoming freshmen,” said McKinley Boston, vice president of student development.
At the center of the University’s plans to expand student housing is Riverbend Commons, a 500-room residence hall including a parking garage and a plaza that connects Coffman Union to the East River Flats Park.
But the expected date of completion for the commons has been pushed back another year until fall 2001, because of high construction costs. PCL Construction Services were released from all obligations and the plans were sent back from redesign in October.
The delay in completion left several committee members frustrated.
Board of Regents Chairwoman Patricia Spence said the delay is a very serious issue because the University planned on having housing available for students.
“Students are our customers, and we need to be able to serve them well,” Spence said. “Waiting two years for housing just isn’t acceptable.”
Heidi Fredrickson, chairwoman of student representatives to the Board of Regents, said she was glad to see the Regents felt action needed to be taken concerning the delay of Riverbend Commons.
“We need to put our foot down and say we want to get what we paid for,” she said.
Fredrickson added the University should not only provide more housing, but make sure the students are happy.
“The University needs to find out why places like Middlebrook (Hall) are so popular and re-create that,” said Fredrickson.
In addition to the Riverbend Commons project, the University is considering other housing options.
These include a 500-space housing facility on the East Bank, a 200-space facility on the West Bank and an addition to Middlebrook Hall.
The student housing cross-functional team will continue to meet to discuss the demand for student housing.

Liz Bogut covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.