Hawkeye Court replacement moves ahead


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Battered buildings from the 1960s previously housed University of Iowa students. But this fall, the dilapidated buildings will be replaced by modern facilities.

University of Iowa officials say that despite minor setbacks, the new Aspire at West Campus apartments will be completed on schedule, allowing students to move in this fall. Currently, the project is two to three weeks ahead of schedule. Officials estimate 85 percent of the units are leased for the 2014-15 school year, according to a project representative. Formerly known as Hawkeye Court, the new project will offer graduate students, faculty, and staff a community center, and housing options with five residential buildings that include 250 apartments or 440 bedrooms, though there are only 35 units still available.

Some of the old apartments were torn down over the summer, because UI officials did not believe they provided a high enough quality of living for UI students, and some of the units sustained damage from the 2008 flood. Though the complex will be located on campus, it is being constructed and managed by a private company, said UI Director of Housing Von Stange. Balfour Beatty Communities, a Dallas-based company, will partner with the UI.

“This is not our property. We have done a ground lease to Aspire so that it could construct the apartments there,” Stange said. “But we are not going to operate them in the University Housing and Dining. They’ll be operated independently.” The UI will still have a role in the housing facility, according leasing manager Amanda Ickowitz. She said the company has been in contact with the university on a weekly basis.

“They’ve been great partners to work with thus far,” Ickowitz said. “The Cambus service will continue to come here, and campus security will continue to patrol this area, so we are pretty good partners with them.” The university will also have a say in some policies, such as late fees, marketing, and billing procedures, Stange said.

Ickowitz said that the only aspect of construction that has been delayed is landscaping, which was supposed to start in March but has been pushed back because of colder temperatures. “They got the roofs on before the major winter hit. They’ve been working inside all winter, so the progress has been ahead of schedule,” Ickowitz said.

The price per unit also remains the same since Balfour Beatty and the UI partnered in September 2013. Maureen Omrod, a spokeswoman for the company, said four of the buildings and the community center will be completed by Aug. 1, and the fifth building is projected to be completed 14 days later, which is right on schedule.

The addition of the community center will provide tenants with a 24-hour gym, a lounge for studying, monthly resident events, and an office for on-site maintenance and management. “We can offer more one-on-one management services,” she said. “There are not a lot of actual communities right now in Iowa City — more complexes with no actual on-site management that are actually there,” she said. “Our customer service is going to be huge, and we’re going to be there for our residents if they need anything.”

But one student is wary of officials’ excitement about the project. Graduate student Brian Prugh is a former tenant of Hawkeye Court and is opposed to the Aspire project because of the increased cost. Last year, Prugh paid $435 for a one bedroom, which will now be more than double at $875.

Prugh said the company is going to make it seem as if this is a win-win situation, because the units are getting rented out. But he believes the problem is that old tenants, those who are least able to afford housing, are not returning.

“Those are by no means affordable, and that’s something that I’ve been saying for a year or so,” he said.

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