During the next 10 years, students can expect to see changes in university housing to make the residences safer and more accommodating. The renovations are the result of a $102 million plan approved this past December by the board of trustees.
The plan includes not only renovations of current housing but also the closing of two of the oldest halls and reducing the size of current family and graduate housing. New housing units for graduate students and families will be built at Cherokee Farms.
The university formed the housing plan after examining the study results of the building development consultation firm, Anderson Strickler in Gaithersburg, Md.
The consulting firm was brought in to examine UT housing since UT did not have a long range housing plan at the time of the study last year, Jim Grubb, Director of Housing said.
"They did some comparisons with UT and other institutions. They also were able to help us evaluate all of our housing facilities in terms of the physical facilities and the needs that existed there. They simply had the expertise and the tools and the knowledge to help us study our own situation and help us plan for the future," Grubb said.
An index was set up for each housing unit to determine how much it would cost to renovate each building. Melrose and Strong halls were at the low end in terms of being too costly to renovate. The current plan, according to Grubb, is to close the two halls by the end of the 2003-2004 school year.
For family and graduate housing, there are a total of 1,669 apartments available, but only 1,300 are rented and any one time, said Grubb. Therefore, as part of the plan, the university is looking to reduce the spaces to about 1,000-1,100. According to Grubb there is the possibility that the university will sell Woodlawn and Taliwa apartments located on Chapman Highway, in the next couple of years.
Four-hundred new units for families and graduate students will be built in the 220-acre Cherokee Farm area after the university's dairy farm is relocated, Grubb said.
All of the renovations will be done in three phases. The first phase will occur from the fiscal years of 2002-2007, the second phase from the fiscal years of 2007-2009, and the final phase from the fiscal years of 2009-2011. The first five years of the renovations will be spent on what Grubb calls Life-Safety projects.
"Within the first five years of the plan, we are going to have all of the Life-Safety projects, which would include sprinkler systems and upgraded fire-alarm systems done in the early part of the plan," Grubb said. This also includes asbestos removal in the apartment residence hall, Hess hall and Greve hall.
Other renovations during the next 10 years include painting, new furniture, window, door and roof replacements, and upgrades to elevators. Kingston and Laurel apartments will be closed for 12 months for their renovations, but Grubb says there should be enough housing for students, even with the closing of Strong and Melrose.
"In fact, one of the things we hope to do when we close those buildings would be to create additional single room housing in Hess Hall. The plan calls for converting about 250 spaces in the building to single rooms," Grubb said.
Financing for this plan will include any money that results from the sale of Woodlawn and Taliwa apartments and revenue bonds that the university will sell. The revenue bonds, which the university gets through the state, will then be paid back through the rent that is collected from students.
This will mean a 5 percent per year increase in rent, but according to Grubb this is not a huge increase.
"We though that was pretty reasonable, so it's not going to require a huge increase in rent to students or additional charges. We've been increasing our rent by about that much every year anyhow for the last several years," Grubb said.