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A surplus of students is causing community members to react

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | OCTOBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa is planning to increase enrollment in upcoming years — possibly to more than 34,000 students — and some community members are concerned about what this will mean for the rest of the city.

As of  fall 2014, the University of Iowa enrolled 31,387 undergraduate students, according the state Board of Regents packet.

“I would feel better about the university’s announcement that it plans to increase enrollment if I felt that both the city of Iowa City and the University of Iowa had a firm grasp on the actual housing needs of students in both number and quality and some long-range plans in place to address those needs,” said Sarah Clark, the recorder for the North Side Neighborhood Association.
City officials said they are aware of the pressure more students could bring to the area.

“[There will be] increased pressures on the neighborhood and new student-housing development requests in our downtown areas,” said Tracy Hightshoe, the community-development coordinator for Iowa City.

Because of the university’s parking restrictions and the desire to continue keeping the UI a walk-friendly campus, the majority of students will be accommodated by private apartment buildings within a mile of campus, said Jeff Davidson, the economic-development administrator for Iowa City.
Some locals said they are concerned about students living in rental properties.

Jeff Walters, a longtime member of the board of the College Green Neighborhood Association, said too many people living in rental properties could affect the neighborhood in negative ways.

The problem isn’t with the number of people but rather with the number of cars and lack of places to park, he said.

With the increased pressure to accommodate the number of students with housing near campus, the UI will try to accommodate as many as it can.

Petersen Hall on the West Side is in its final stages of construction, and another residence hall on the East Side is in an early design stage.

Clark said she does not think the new residence hall will be as beneficial as it needs to be.

“While Petersen Hall will be ready for habitation in the fall of 2015, the university is planning to tear down Quadrangle within a few years, so the overall gain in dorm rooms will be minimal,” she said. “I hope the university does move ahead with its latest plans to build a dorm on the East Side of the river, though I’m guessing it won’t be ready for another four or five years.”

In addition to building more residence halls, other plans will involve the Riverfront Crossing area.

“Our plan for the development of downtown and the Riverfront Crossings district calls for there to be student housing built in these areas,” Davidson said. “Our goal is to have the increase in student housing focused downtown and in Riverfront Crossings and not in the older neighborhoods around downtown.” 

The plan is to provide guidance for development, as well as use zoning and economic-development tools to allow private investment, which would help develop housing.

According to the Riverfront Crossings website, the goal of the area is to revitalize Iowa City and ensure that it continues to be a place in which residents can easily walk, bike, or ride the bus to work, class, or around the city.

In addition to a waterfront park with walking and biking trails, residents will also have access to the Iowa River for boating and fishing.

Housing will be located close to places to shop, dine, and work.

“Anywhere that’s near the Iowa campus is specific to conducive housing,” said Karen Howard, the associate planner for the city. “We anticipate there will be housing areas for students.”


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