By Ariana Assaf, Daily Staff Reporter
Published June 12, 2013
Graduate students, get ready. The University’s plan to provide a housing complex just for graduate students is moving right along.
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The Michigan Daily reported in April that the residence hall would house 600 students in a 370,000-square-foot, eight-story building on South Division Street. The project was made possible by a donation of $110 million from University alum Charles Munger.
The location was secured by acquiring the current site of Blimpy Burger, four houses previously owned by former Athletic Director Bill Martin and two houses that Copi Properties leases to students.
University President Mary Sue Coleman first announced plans for construction at a University Board of Regents meeting in April. As of Tuesday, the University reached an agreement with Copi Properties and closed on the purchase of two houses. The University will pay $1.5 million for both properties.
After the April board meeting in which the project was approved, a resolution that would have allowed the administration to use eminent domain — the state’s power to take private property for public use — if necessary was also approved.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University first started discussing the purchase with Copi Properties in December.
“The purchase price is always a subject of negotiation,” Fitzgerald said. “But we reached an agreement and closed on the purchase of those houses (Wednesday).”
Fitzgerald said though a design for the residence hall hasn’t been officially approved, ideas include layouts like seven-bedroom apartments, each with their own bathroom, and a large common area and kitchen.
Sam Copi of Copi Properties declined to comment on the negotiation.
Rich Magner, the owner of Blimpy Burger, said he is still looking for a new location for the restaurant.
“The best possible situation would be to stay right where we are,” Magner said. “But I own the business, I don’t own the property.”
The University offered $1.075 million for the property where Blimpy Burger is currently located, a price that Magner could not match.
Housing spokesman Peter Logan said the complex is intended to act as a unique space where cross-curricular collaboration is encouraged. University Housing has been trying to ascertain what kind of programming or support this kind of community would require by talking to graduate students and colleagues involved in existing graduate student programs.
“(We) have a vision to create a community of grad students across many disciplines that will provide opportunities to share scholarship and research work on a variety of fields,” Logan said. “It’s a unique population, so we’re doing our diligence now trying to identify what would make this collaborative cross disciplinary community at graduate level successful.”
Construction is expected to start this fall, and will take about two years to complete.