Apartments offer grand accomodations

V. Paul

Picture the typical dorm setting: off-white hallways and worn-out couches in stale-smelling lounges and personal space found in 8-by-10 rooms.
Now, imagine dorm living with a health club, business center, meeting rooms and a 24-hour concierge who is able to suggest tutors, computer repair shops and fast food delivery places in a blink.
A new West Bank student apartment complex on the corner of Cedar and Washington avenues targets University law and business graduate students to develop living conditions that make it easier and more comfortable to earn a degree.
“It’s not a dorm,” said David Koch, executive vice president of GrandMarc. “We’ve taken some of the concepts schools have used to support students and applied them to what we’re doing here.”
GrandMarc at Seven Corners will share the block with Sgt. Preston’s bar and restaurant and the Theatre in the Round along Cedar Avenue. The 188-unit, five-story apartment complex will have one-, two- and four-bedroom apartments.
Each unit will have a kitchen, dining room, living room and washer and dryer; every bedroom will have its own bathroom and some will also include a study room.
Rents start at $400 to $500 per student for the four bedroom apartments. The smallest efficiency will be 381 square feet, of 19-by-20 feet, while the largest four-bedroom apartment will be 1,512 square feet.
Demolition and site-preparation have already begun with construction expected to commence later this month. Developers expect to be ready for tenants next summer, said Greg Almquist, president of GrandMarc.
“If we didn’t have to take a building off (the site), construction would have already started,” Almquist said. “All we’re doing is getting the dirt ready now.” Washington Square Apartments and 7 Corners Grocery Store currently reside on the future site of GrandMarc.
The total development cost remains undetermined because final details — such as which retail shops will go in on the first floor and how exactly Sgt. Preston’s exterior would be altered to match the new buildings’ architecture — still need to be worked out, Almquist said.
Developing student residences in an urban setting where many of the computer, copier, athletic or grocery services already exist does not give the developers cause to worry. None of the new amenities are set up to be for-profit businesses, but rather on-site conveniences.
For example, when students do not feel like going to Kinko’s at 3 a.m., Koch said, they could just go downstairs.
The project, although privately developed, required University approval because of a parking lot on the site the University owned. The 63-space lot was sold to GrandMarc last month for $314,500, after the University’s Board of Regents approved the sale in a March meeting.
The board had delayed the original approval of the sale for one month to determine if the project fit the University’s plans for the West Bank.
“We wanted to confirm that the housing would serve University law and management and Humphrey center students,” said Susan Weinberg, director of the University’s Real Estate Office. “The University feels confident that that was the case.”
GrandMarc is discussing the possibility of Sgt. Preston’s managing a grocery store that will neighbor a coffee shop, restaurant, bookstore and copy center on the first floor, Almquist said.
Almquist hopes that the future grocery will stock everything from food items to pharmaceutical neccessities, serving as “a corner convenience store for the residents of Seven Corners and students in the University community.”
To determine what services they would provide, GrandMarc researched graduate students’ needs in two focus-groups a year ago with 27 University business and law students. A 24-hour business center, with computers and copy machines, and an exercise area for venting studying stresses, topped their wish list, Koch said.
“What we’re trying to do is be really sensitive to our customers, who happen to be graduate students,” Koch said. “We just want to provide the kinds of services that are voluntary and optional, but we want to show we will provide the aids that will assist them,” he said.