Res Life report calls for short-term acquisition of apartments
With a commitment to house more than 5,000 students next fall, UA Residence Life officials said they are anticipating the acquisition of several nearby apartment complexes to accommodate the influx of prospective residents.
Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life, and a committee of 13 other members of the University of Arizona community have been working since last fall on a summary report which outlines remedies to the housing shortage. The report, released last month and divided into two sections, focuses mainly on acquiring more beds in a short amount of time.
The addition of 80 spaces to Pima House residence haŠll is secured, but the majority of the spaces will hopefully come from neighboring apartment complexes, Van Arsdel said.
The committee contacted several complexes before the semester break with plans and details of the request, and will reconvene today to finalize which apartment complexes will be leased by the university.
"It's looking like we might have as many as 600 more spaces available if we do everything that might make sense," Van Arsdel said. "If they get those, no problems, which is kind of my perfect world."
Adding to the urgency for extra housing is the uncertain futures of three current facilities. The leases on Corleone and Palm Shadows apartments and Parker House - formerly the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house - expire at the end of the spring and are not guaranteed to be renewed. These facilities account for about 300 beds, said Van Arsdel.
However, Residence Life plans to construct two large residence halls and a university-owned apartment complex within the next 3 years, making the apartment complexes a temporary fix.
"We really only have a short-term problem - we need this bridge," he said.
All of the apartments would be no more than two blocks from campus, and would come fully furnished, Van Arsdel said. Residence Life sent letters to current residents before the semester break notifying them of the possible changes, and if the apartments are acquired, an addendum will be placed in future outgoing housing catalogs to prospective students. Current residents will also be allowed to change their preferences for next year.
Pam Obando, associate director of marketing services for Residence Life, said the apartments will be especially geared toward current students. Though the majority of dorm residents are freshmen, apartment living may persuade older students to stay with the Residence Life system while easing their transition to independent living, she said.
"We are hoping to market and encourage many of the current residents to look at the apartments we're making available to them," said Obando, who plans to put photos and details of the apartments on the Residence Life Web site. "What we feel is that, for a lot of the current students who live on campus, it's a nice transition."
Van Arsdel agreed, taking the position of a sophomore or junior returning to the residence halls.
"Were I a student, I think it might make more sense to me as an older student to consider an apartment (rather) than a traditional residence hall," he said.
Van Arsdel also said the committee wanted to have some additional possibilities in mind if it cannot get the space it is anticipating. In the event that Residence Life cannot acquire any apartment complexes, a lottery system will be employed, he said.
However, Residence Life learned from the failed lottery it attempted in spring of 1999, Van Arsdel said. The revised lottery takes into account older residents who feel they were promised housing for their entire undergraduate career, and might fear being ousted despite their seniority. Only current freshman residents would be subject to the drawing.
"We've gone a little bit farther in our thinking in understanding it," Van Arsdel said. "We need a back up plan. But that back up plan needs to acknowledge that... we would not limit the number of freshman and sophomores because they think they have received a promise"
Still, Van Arsdel stressed that the lottery is not expected to be used, and the chances of gaining the apartments is highly likely.
"At this point, we don't think (the lottery) is going to be necessary," he said. "The whole notion of a lottery is a contingency for something that looks to be extremely unlikely."
However, today's conference will allow Residence Life to officially move forward with plans, accomplishing what needs to be done to accommodate UA students.
"If we can get to the point of knowing what we need to do, that's a big step forward," Van Arsdel said.