University of Iowa additions nix need for expanded housing

Jul 6, 2017 at 5:32 pm | Print View

IOWA CITY — In response to rising demand to live on campus, University of Iowa and Iowa State University for years have been piecing together a patchwork of housing options — supplementing traditional residence halls with a variety of alternatives.

But the universities — through dormitory additions and upgrades — are moving away from expanded housing in the form of repurposed residence hall lounges and leased apartment space. In fact, UI this fall — for the first time in years — doesn’t plan to temporarily crowd as many as eight students in what are intended to be residence hall floor lounges.

And the university soon could move away from housing students in leased apartment-style space off campus thanks to this fall’s addition of its biggest-ever dorm — the 12-story Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall capable of housing 1,049 students.

As for the upcoming 2017-2018 academic year, the university still plans to house overflow students in about 225 off-campus leased spaces in properties along North Dubuque, Bloomington, and Davenport streets.

“But our thoughts when beginning to lease these properties was to serve as a bridge through the opening of Catlett Hall,” University Housing and Dining Senior Director Von Stange told The Gazette.

The university — which in fall 2015 opened its first new dorm since 1968, Mary Louise Petersen Hall capable of housing more than 500 — has to decide this fall if it will continue future use of its leased properties known as Dubuque House, Bloomington House, and Centerstone, according to Stange.

Iowa State likewise has been shifting away from reliance on leased space — although it currently bolsters its 11,000-plus residence hall capacity with more than 1,100 beds in off-campus units that operate as on-campus housing.

Legacy Tower, an apartment complex south of campus, houses 299 residents; Iowa State West, offering furnished apartments and full-time live-in staff, houses 828 students; and the former Memorial Union Hotel, which converted 54 rooms for student use last fall, is home to about 70 students.

Heading into August, Iowa State has reduced its leases by 328 in the Iowa State West apartments, and the university plans to drop all use of Iowa State West for the 2018-19 academic year. Future use of the IMU hotel space — beyond this fall — also is undetermined.

That means, beginning in fall 2018, Iowa State could cut its leased space to just 299 Legacy apartment beds — as “leased property gave us the ability to serve our students while we built permanent inventory.”

Iowa State in January opened Geoffroy Hall, adding 784 beds to its capacity. In 2014, a Frederiksen Court apartment expansion added 720 beds. This summer and next will bring upgrades to the residence system’s Wallace and Wilson towers — with new flooring, paint, lighting, elevators, and windows.

The Richardson Court neighborhood also is undergoing renovations this summer and next, according to the ISU Department of Residence.

Housing upgrades across the regent system — including at University of Northern Iowa, which will debut a renovated Lawther Hall this fall — has enabled the institutions to accommodate all students wanting to live in on-campus housing while nixing expanded housing and decreasing leased space.

Thousands of students have received housing assignments for this fall — even though the universities continue to accept applications and make placements. Iowa State is reporting 12,581 submitted contracts to date, but officials said — based on historical trends — that number likely will drop.

If the figure sticks or stays close, it would top last fall’s total occupancy and come in on par with ISU expectations.

University of Iowa, according to Board of Regents documents, is projecting a total occupancy of 7,226 for this fall — but officials don’t have an updated estimate as applications continue to trickle in.

UNI so far has assigned about 4,000 students to live on campus, but it has capacity for nearly 5,000, according to regent documents. The universities have made housing students on campus a priority because doing so seems to aid their academic success — through “living learning communities” in the residence halls and other institutional connections.

“Students who choose to live with Iowa State’s Department of Residence are connected more quickly, graduate faster, and earn higher GPAs than those who don’t,” according to Department of Residence spokeswoman Brittney Rutherford.

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