Apartment complex will fund student scholarship

Sean Madigan

With freshmen checked into motels and stuffed into study lounges, a Minneapolis-based non-profit organization is working to provide additional quality student housing while generating scholarship revenue for Minnesota students.
Headed by Wedum Foundation president John Wedum, the Wedum University Village is constructing a 199-unit residential and commercial housing complex near the northeast corner of the East Bank campus.
The Wedum University Village distinguishes itself from other University area developments such as the Dinnaken and Argyle properties because a portion of the annual rental income will be donated to local Dollars for Scholars chapters. Officials haven’t announced a decision on the percentage of retail income to be donated.
Local chapters throughout the state will then disperse scholarship funds to students at their own discretion.
“The true benefit is to relieve a severe housing shortage while generating scholarship dollars for students,” said University Village spokesperson Merrill Busch.
The Wedum University Village’s housing portion is directly financed through a rare tax-free U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-guaranteed municipal bond issue.
However, the $1.8 million required to build the retail portion could not be financed by HUD because it has no direct relation to housing. The entire amount of money for the retail portion was funded directly from the Wedum Foundation.
Wedum noted that there is no direct link between residents of the village and the available scholarship money. The development acts primarily as a symbol for the foundation and a potential source of scholarship revenue in the future.
Traditionally the Dollars for Scholars program has generated a great deal of money for Minnesota students, Wedum said. The dollars generated by the University Village will come back ten-fold in scholarship money, he said.
The University Village is slated for completion in August of 1999, just in time for the beginning of the new school year.
Located on a 4.3-acre plot two blocks east of the campus along University Avenue, the housing complex will offer 127 two-bedroom, 60 four-bedroom and 12 one-bedroom units. The Village will also contain 24,000 square feet of available commercial space and a 200-car enclosed parking facility.
The village complex developers said the residential units will be market priced.
Yet Minnesota Student Association President Nikki Kubista remains skeptical of the project.
Affordable housing is one of three initiatives the association is working to improve this year. Kubista expressed concerns about the true affordability of the rental units, saying the new complex will not remedy the shortage of affordable housing.
“To make housing affordable, students often have to live with roommates, squeezing four people into a two-bedroom space,” she said.
“Students should ask themselves how much money students are getting back compared to how much they are paying,” Kubista said.
Kubista wonders whether the University is making decisions in the students’ best interests or making decisions to fuse another corporate partnership with the University.
She said a better use of the money might be to subsidize the housing costs to make it more directly affordable to students.