Grad students seek to save Notre Dame’s University Village | Education

SOUTH BEND — Some University of Notre Dame graduate students are circulating a petition to try to save University Village, the 55-year-old married student apartment complex that is scheduled to close and be demolished next spring.

The complex includes many married couples with young children. Residents there describe it as a close-knit community, with regular communal dinners and Masses, and a fenced-in playground.

As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had nearly 2,300 signatures.

Built in 1962, University Village is on the far north edge of campus along Douglas Road. Graduate students and their families who live there often walk or bike to the main part of campus.

Earlier this month, Notre Dame announced that starting in fall 2018 all newly enrolled undergraduates will be required to live on campus for three years, in part to strengthen the residential community on campus. Now some graduate students with families are concerned they will have to move off campus, into rental apartments or houses that will cost them more and not offer the sense of community they say exists among student families on campus.

“Notre Dame has pushed off giving us details about the closing since 2014,” said Thomas Dougherty, a graduate student of architecture, who lives in University Village with his wife and two children.

The university announced in 2014 that in 2018 it would close three on-campus graduate apartment complexes: University Village, which houses about 75 married students with spouses, including many with children; Cripe Street Apartments, 22 students plus their spouses; and O’Hara-Grace Townhouses, 62 single graduate students.

The plan to close all three remains on target for next May, Erin Hoffmann Harding, Notre Dame’s vice president for student affairs, said in an interview Wednesday.

She and Karen Kennedy, the university’s housing director, said Notre Dame will help married students and their families find new housing either on campus or in the community.

Families that were living in University Village under signed leases in 2014 will be able to rent units in Fischer Graduate Residences on campus at the same rate as their current lease, Harding said. Graduate student families that weren’t under a campus lease in 2014 will have the option of renting Fischer units at the current rate or finding housing off campus.

For families without a grandfathered lease, rates at Fischer will be nearly double what they now pay at University Village, which will be prohibitive for some families, said University Village resident Naomi Burton, who lives there with her husband, Robert, a doctoral student, and their two children.

“We would like some sort of community,” said resident Heeyoung Moon, whose husband is a graduate student. They are among many international families in University Village.

The university has an agreement with Off Campus Partners LLC, based in Charlottesville, Va., to help married students and their families find affordable housing in the South Bend area, Harding said. Most families likely will seek to rent apartments or houses, but the university also works with a local real estate company to show homes to families seeking to buy, she said.

Notre Dame won’t arrange communal living centers for graduate student families off campus. If a number of university families decided to rent in a specific neighborhood or apartment complex, however, the university intends to help them plan gatherings and events to foster a sense of community.

The university in 2018 also plans to hire a full-time employee to help students with parenting and spousal support issues.

In 2016, Holladay Properties proposed development of a mixed-use retail and residential project in the area where University Village now stands, Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said. There is a tentative agreement to move forward on that, but only if it is in conjunction with a project to improve safety and landscaping along Indiana 933, he said.

If the 933 project doesn’t materialize, the University Village property will be grassed over after demolition, he said. The area where the O’Hara-Grace Townhouses are located will be converted to parking.

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