Neighborhood awaits more

by Stacy Jo

With only a few private homeowners left, the owner-occupied housing of the Motley neighborhood is making room — many rooms, in fact — for larger, apartment-style campus housing.
This trend continues to change the makeup of the neighborhood just south of Stadium Village in a way that officials say reflects the growing needs of the University community.
In an effort to step up the quality and quantity of on-campus housing, the University sold its property — five homes, a church and a former parsonage — on the 900 block of Essex Street to Dinnaken Properties, the biggest landowner in the neighborhood aside from the University.
After months of discussions balancing the neighborhood’s desire for owner-occupied housing with the need for additional student housing on campus, the University met with little opposition to its decision to sell the properties to Dinnaken.
“Some people in the community want private homeowners, but we’re past that stage. What we really need is high density housing,” said 17-year Motley resident Ray Wilkinson.
In a move that displaced about 40 student renters to accommodate a 155-occupant Argyle House addition, the developers of Dinnaken, Tairrie and Argyle houses bought the property from the University in late May.
The displaced residents rented from the University on a month-to-month basis, said Gary Bieniek, former associate administrator in the University Real Estate Office. He said residents vacated the homes by Dec. 31, 1997.
Ann O’Loughlin, University coordinator of community and collegiate relations, said residents were made aware of the impending sale early on, as University officials publicly discussed their intent to sell the property nearly two years ago.
University officials weighed two primary goals in finding buyers for the properties: expanding and improving housing adjacent to campus, and maintaining good relations with neighbors by considering their desire for more owner-occupied housing in the neighborhood.
Yvonne Grosulak, vice president of Dinnaken Properties, said Dinnaken also considered the neighborhood’s desire for more owner-occupied housing. Dinnaken contracted engineers to evaluate the condition of the homes, none of which were found to be worth renovating. The poor condition of homes in the neighborhood, Grosulak said, contributed to the lack of owner-occupied housing in the neighborhood.
The University sold the properties to Dinnaken through a sealed public bid process. Several residents made bids on individual homes, but Dinnaken’s offer to buy all of the properties proved to be most compatible with the University’s goals for the neighborhood.
“The University wanted more quality housing that we have a track record of providing. We were a sure bet,” Grosulak said.
Grosulak contends that Dinnaken’s presence in the neighborhood positively impacts the University by helping area merchants and centering students around campus. She added that replacing older, run-down buildings with newer housing increases the value of the property.
The extent of Motley property owned by Dinnaken has become apparent in the last few years with the continued construction of student housing.
In addition to the recent construction of townhomes on the 500 block of Ontario Street, Dinnaken plans to demolish all of the homes on the block of property south of Argyle House. Construction will begin upon completion of the Argyle House addition, which is slated for fall 1999.
The University owned three homes on this block; absentee landlords unaffiliated with the University rented the remainder of the homes to students. Various owners sold properties on this block to Dinnaken over the last 12 years. Dinnaken plans to build either apartment-style or townhome-style housing on the entire block by 2001.
Several student renters on this block said they were not kept very well informed of Dinnaken’s plans for the property. Most noted, however, that they considered their living arrangements temporary, and approved of Dinnaken’s plans for the neighborhood.
Wilkinson, a member of the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, lives in the only family home on his block on East River Road. He said living in a transient community means neighbors do not look out for one another.
However, Wilkinson said, the transition to increased student housing parallels the original community plans that call for the area to support a high-density student population.
“This is not a revolution, but it’s an evolution. And it is, I believe, a good evolution for this community,” Wilkinson said.