Condo complex to offer students opportunity to own

U Flats construction is expected to be completed in September 2006.

Kevin McCahill

A new option for student housing is being built near campus, and it could start a new movement for ways to live while in school.

U Flats, a condominium complex near Stadium Village, might be the next step in student housing at the University. Rather than paying high rent without any financial return, U Flat officials are selling the condos as the route to financial control during school.

Bill Frothinger is the sales manager for Financial Freedom, which was hired in December to handle sales and marketing for U Flats.

Frothinger said the 75 units will range from 500 square feet to 1,400 square feet, and the property will have off-street and underground parking.

There are more than 145 people on the properties reservation list as U Flats finalizes purchase prices and other details. Frothinger said he plans to have one-third of the building filled by the end of March.

U Flats saleswoman Ginger Rogers said a majority of those interested are parents of students.

Prices range from $135,000 for a one-bedroom condo to $365,000 for a four-bedroom condo, Rogers said. The building will house 75 condos, 40 of which have been sold, and is expected to be completed in September 2006.

The condos will have hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances among other amenities. The facility will have a billiards room, and a coffee shop is expected to be added on the main floor, Rogers said.

Rogers said he thinks there will continue to be a move from rentals to purchase properties.

“It’s a great investment,” she said. “You are gaining equity, paying the same or a little more than rent, and you own something.”

Frothinger said the majority of interested people are current residents of Prospect Park and University faculty members, although most are University students and their parents.

“It’s a great opportunity for parents to buy something and have their kids share it through school,” he said.

Executive Director of the Minnesota Housing Partnership Chip Halbach said recent market changes have caused lower interest rates and increased prices, which has created a demand for lower-priced home ownership options like condos.

Halbach said this type of move will continue unless more government funding or assistance is given to developers to help put affordable houses on the market.

Condos have gone through a boom lately, but that trend has slowed, Halbach said. Part of the U Flat’s marketing strategy toward parents of students was to present the idea that parents could sell the condo after the student had graduated and make a profit, but Halbach isn’t sure that will happen.

“My sense is it won’t happen on units that are not really popular,” he said. “In four years you may not recover ($30,000), but could cover your costs.”

Minnesota Student Association Facilities and Housing Chairwoman Katie White said construction of this type shows there is a market for condos. She said students needed to be certain they could afford it.

“I know I could never afford one,” she said. “With all the pressures on students these days with money and credit card debt and loans, there is a legitimate fear that students aren’t able to afford it.”

Regardless, White doesn’t think this means the end of affordable housing near the University.

“As long as there has been a University, there have been poor college students that continue to exist,” she said.

Although U Flats likely will be one of the more expensive buildings around campus, Frothinger said that is what parents want.

“It gives them a piece of mind that their children are living in a good area,” he said.

He also said that because the building is taking the place of a former hotel, they are expanding housing options and not diminishing lower-cost rental opportunities.