U plans to add 2,500 beds, spend $80 million

Sam Kean

As Twin Cities students increasingly demand proximate and affordable housing, the University and private contractors plan to add 2,500 beds within blocks of campus – developments that will send the University $80 million into debt.

At a Board of Regents meeting Thursday, housing departmental director Mary Ann Ryan outlined housing projects for next fall that will add 424 beds in Riverbend Commons Student Housing and 924 and 145 more in Stadium Village and Dinkytown, respectively.

Two other East Bank projects under discussion would provide 1,100 more, and finance office members also mentioned a possible housing project near the Dinkydome.

Ryan said the push for more residential life housing arose from the “unprecedented demand” for housing from large freshmen classes – at least 5,000 every year – and those returning to residence halls.

To relieve its crowded housing facilities, the University needs to utilize both private companies and residence halls, said budget and finance Associate Vice President Richard Pfutzenreuter.

University President Mark Yudof agreed, saying the University should be “conservative in building (new halls) and would be wise to share the risk with the private sector.”

The housing additions will put the University $80 million in debt, over two-thirds of which will be attributed to the Twin Cities campus. If the University builds no more residence halls, the debt will run until 2035.

Overall, the University is $537 million in debt, mostly due to campus construction.

Part of the debt will be passed on to students. Ryan’s report projected an 8 percent increase in residence hall and apartment rates next year due to both operational costs and construction.

In regard to private housing, student Regent Lakeesha Ransom expressed concern about contractors pricing out students. Specifically, she cited GrandMarc at Seven Corners, which caters to graduate and professional students, as an example of housing unaffordable to many.

But to keep rents competitive and students near campus, Ryan said she requested private companies “don’t go to the GrandMarc pricing.”

Sam Kean welcomes comments at [email protected]