Master Plan proposes reduction in on-campus housing

Photo provided by Facilities Planning

Photo courtesy of Stuart Grant of Facilities Planning.

Carlos Coba/Assistant News Director

On any given day of fall or spring semester, student residents can be seen grilling food on barbecues or playing volleyball in the sands of University Apartments’ beach volleyball courts.

“You feel like you’re living in an apartment, not a dorm,” said junior Tarek Abdel Raouf, a mechanical engineering major.

Other student residents feel like the apartments’ facilities are outdated and call for some improvement in maintenance and upkeep.

By 2020, however, students might not have the option of residing in University Apartments.

The 2010-2020 Master Plan’s draft shows that University Apartments may lose some, if not all, of its beds. The Master Plan guides the university’s development and building for a decade, and all public universities are required to upgrade their Master Plans every five years. Without a Master Plan, the public and donors would not know what the university intends to develop.

Photo found in Facilities Planning website.

The plan’s illustrative map of Modesto A. Maidique campus shows several structures in the area currently occupied by apartment buildings F, G, H and J. There are approximately 50 beds per apartment building – removing four of the 10 buildings would mean 200 fewer beds.

Administration insists that any beds removed from University Apartments would be compensated for by new housing projects or housing projects under construction.

“Five hundred students are housed in University Apartments,” said Lynn Hendricks, interim executive director of Housing and Residence Life. “Any complex built with more than 500 beds would account for the beds removed from University Apartments.”

Parkview, which recently opened, has 622 beds. In addition, Hendricks said “…EdR, a private developer, is building 542 beds across S.W. Eighth Street; and a different private developer plans to add an additional 900 beds a few blocks from campus.”

According to Jim Wassenaar, director of Facilities Planning and Operations, off-campus housing built by private developers will continue to increase.

“We’ve been supportive of private partnerships because we believe the Sweetwater community should embrace the university as a full partner,” said Wassenaar.

However, private partnerships can also serve as a reminder of the Master Plan’s uncertain nature. A Master Plan is inherently hypothetical because it projects future construction without considering the availability of state funding.

“The reality is that state funding is below our expectations,” said Robert Griffith, director of Facilities Planning. “So funding these projects relies on private partnerships.”

According to several administrators, private partnerships are the catalysts of the university’s expansion, which leads to the displacement of facilities.

“If we displace student housing we are going to replace it and improve it,” said Wassenaar.

Any changes to apartments would likely occur by displacement of on-campus housing to the area in front of Lot 6 and near the football stadium, where most residential halls are.

The area east of Parking Garage Five and north of Southwest 11th Avenue, which runs through University Apartments’ Lot 14, would be the location of Academic Health facilities.

“There are a series of medical buildings and partnerships scheduled for that northeastern quadrant of MMC,” said Wassenaar. “We don’t expect any impact in that area until the following five to 10 year period.”

Griffith hopes that students think about the lack of available land within MMC and the convenience of designating certain areas of campus for specific purposes. The Master Plan has to guide some strategic decisions, and Griffith believes expanding academic health on the northeast corner of MMC is strategic.

“We expect to grow the most in medicine,” said Griffith. “We are not going to preserve four housing units and put academic health facilities in an inconvenient place.”

Wassenaar reminds students that University Apartments were built in 1985 and it does not have Parkview’s modern facilities. University Apartments cost around $8 million to build, while Parkview was a $40 million project.

“When you build a structure such as Parkview, you’re building housing that is better prepared for hurricanes, more energy efficient and has a longer life-span,” said Wassenaar.

Student residents were not surprised by the Master Plan’s projections.

“I’ve been living here since 2006 and they’ve been expanding campus, so these plans don’t really surprise me,” said Sebius Santos, a senior biology major.

carlos.coba@fiusm.com

About the Author

Carlos Coba
Assistant News Director of FIUSM. Political Science/ International Relations 2ble major, Journalism minor, Latin American and Caribbean Studies certificate.

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