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UI officials hoping to expand student-housing options

BY LAUREN COFFEY | DECEMBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Following the success of using Centerstone and Hawks Ridge apartments for extra student housing, University of Iowa officials are now asking the state Board of Regents to approve leases for two more apartment complexes in Iowa City.

The regents will meet today to discuss the approval of two leases for apartment buildings owned by Svoboda Rentals located at 112 E. Bloomington St. and 427 N. Dubuque St.

UI officials would lease the Bloomington Street location for $322,560 annual base rent, plus $16,560 for 25 parking spaces. The Dubuque Street location would be leased for a $391,200 annual base rent, plus $28,320 for 43 parking spaces, according to the regents’ agenda. The university’s leases with Svoboda Rentals would be effective from August 2013 to July 2015.

Initial discussions for the leases began in August, when officials saw the largest increase in student enrollment ever with the class of 2016. Additionally, officials recognized an increasing issue with overcrowding in the residence halls — a problem that will not soon be alleviated. Construction on the new West Side residence hall will not be completed until 2015.

“Primarily, the motivation was to better serve students,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said. “It would be a win-win. It would function as much as a residence hall, such as with the [Hawks Ridge]. It would attempt to provide the same experience as in the residence halls.”

The possible conversion of the two apartment buildings follows the use of Centerstone, another off-campus building considered university housing. The university leased the apartment building that houses Centerstone Apartments, 121/131 E. Davenport St., from College View LLC in August 2011 to accommodate the demand for returning Honors students, The Daily Iowan has previously reported. UI officials signed a lease for two years at $760,560.

“We’ve had good success with Centerstone,” said Von Stange, the director of UI Housing and Dining. “The system at the apartments will be very similar to Centerstone.”

Stange hopes to offer the additional housing options to upperclassmen and transfer students, leaving traditional residence halls to incoming freshmen. The new locations would house 104 students in the two buildings.

Stange said the management offered their buildings for housing and there would be no difficulty with a contract between the university and Svoboda Rentals.

Svoboda Rentals were not available for comment Tuesday evening.

Officials do not know if the buildings will still be used in 2015, when the new dorm will be finished. This will depend on the number of students that enrolled at the UI.

Moore didn’t want to speculate on the decision to be made by the regents today, but Stange said he feels confident the regents will approve the request to lease the apartments.

Regent Robert Downer said he believes leasing the apartments would be a benefit to the students, but he did not want officials to pursue these housing options as a long-term plan.

“I believe it helps move the University of Iowa closer to what I think would be the appropriate percentage of housing available to students,” he said. “I would not favor this for a long-term basis, but I think with the new housing this is an appropriate bridge to get to that point.”

Downer does not foresee the regents turning down the university’s request.

“They have approved things like this in the past on several occasions,” he said. “On which reasons may come up to stop, that I’m not aware.”


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