WU gauges interest in housing north of Loop

| Managing Editor

Proposed renderings of possible Wash. U. housing on the loop. The university recently sent out a survey to undergraduate students seeking their input on possible options for housing expansion. (Courtesy of Washington University)

As Washington University students prepare to make next year’s housing arrangements, the University is looking into possible options for housing expansion, specifically north of the Delmar Loop.

Dean James McLeod, the vice cancellor for students, sent students a questionnaire to gauge interest in the new housing possibility, and he said the administration is still researching different options. Although few would question the necessity of more University-owned housing for students, concerns about safety and the character of the neighborhood complicate this possibility.

Over the course of the last decade, the University has been redoing all of its housing for students, both on and off campus. The results of the remodel lead to the split between new and traditional dorms, as well as off-campus living options for upperclassmen, undergraduates and graduate students such as the Loop Lofts. The next step involves spreading into the community close to the school.

The survey sent to undergraduate students said, “WUSTL is considering the development of an attractive, vibrant, environmentally sustainable, safe and secure residential community for WUSTL Undergraduate Students and other residents.”

The possible new undergraduate home stretches from the neighborhood that begins on the north side of the Delmar Loop through Skinker Boulevard to North Campus on the east.

“We’ve purchased a significant number of buildings off campus,” McLeod said. “This is part of a larger effort to have excellent housing for students on or near campus. It’s not just north of Delmar; it’s also south of Delmar. We are looking at all areas where we have property already.”

One of the benefits of housing north of the Loop includes a 15-minute walk to campus, closer than housing options such as the Loop Lofts. But one of the reasons that Anna Studstill, a senior living her second year north of the Loop, chose to live in this area was the community that already existed there.

“Part of what I like about my building is that it’s not all students,” Studstill said. “It’s a mix. I like the diversity of having families and graduate students.”

But what Studstill said really drew her to the area was the cost. Once Residential Life starts setting rent prices, the cost could be affected as well. Apartments north of the Loop are cheaper than other traditional off-campus areas, like Waterman Court and the Kingsbury area. A two- or three-bedroom off-campus apartment in the ResLife system, like Greenway, costs $8,842 for the upcoming school year, according to the ResLife Web site, where some three bedroom apartments in the area considered for the new housing development cost $1,250 a month, which means only $5,000 per renter for the year. Some students have expressed worries that University-owned apartments would remove one of the few close, affordable options for off-campus living. Higher rents could affect more than just students. If the rent were raised and apartments were to become scarcer because of the University’s plans, families and other non-student residents might also feel the effects.

But community members should not be worried, McLeod said, as the University values the character of the communities surrounding the University, and has no current plans to buy up large amounts of property. The community is “a real asset” for the University, he said, making good neighbor status a top priority.

As for how the University plans to collect enough buildings to make a new complex, the administration says it is still too early in the process to say.

“I don’t know that there is an answer to that,” McLeod said. “There is no aggressive buying plan right now. That doesn’t rule out lots of different ways we could…trade buildings, we could purchase buildings.”

One issue that doesn’t seem to be affecting the situation is the security concern.

After a shooting on the Loop last fall, the assault of a graduate student over winter break, and other safety problems, students regard areas north of the Loop much as they would regard anywhere else off campus—a place where people have to be on their guard.

Security is an ongoing concern, according to McLeod, and it will be looked into. But as this applies to all off-campus housing, the area north of the Loop is not viewed as any less safe than other areas where students typically live.

More students are moving north of the Loop for reasons similar to those of Studstill, but also because they need somewhere to live. As class sizes grow, the University struggles to find places to house everyone, forcing many students off campus. New housing complexes may help avoid situations like that senior Aparna Misra found herself in two years ago.

“Because there were no more suites left on campus to suit our needs, we [my roommates and I] were not assigned to any on-campus housing,” Misra said. “And we went off campus to find a place to live.”

Although the University is, according to McLeod, looking into all areas where the University currently has holdings, the area north of the Loop is the only area about which student interest has been gauged.

Still, McLeod emphasized that the University is still conducting research and any new developments could still be a long way off. As it is still taking into consideration different concerns and options associated with housing north of the Loop, the University simply has not reached a conclusion yet.

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