The Regents approved the demolition of Northwood III, a collection of apartment buildings for undergraduates, and the construction of three new dorms in its place at their Feb. 17 meeting, the first meeting since the firing of former President Mark Schlissel. This news received mixed reactions from the student body, with some commending the creation of more housing for undergraduates but others hesitant to believe this would resolve the housing shortage or create the robust community that the administration promises.
At the Regents meeting, Executive Vice President Geoffrey Chatas discussed the estimated cost of the project and the perceived timeline for the new student housing plans.
“In order to achieve the project schedule for opening of the beds for the fall semester in 2024, we propose issuing bids and awarding contracts for abatement and demolition, activities site utility work and other preparatory work to meet the schedule at a cost not to exceed $5 million,” Chatas said. “The estimated cost of the project is $190 million.”
LSA freshman Jackson Armstrong said he does not approve of the University’s use of the funding for the project.
“I think that the fact that they’re demoing a current dorm that’s up right now to build newer ones on top of that instead of renovating the current ones and allocating the money into different areas of interest on campus is kind of disappointing,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said that the prospect of new dorms might be appealing for incoming freshmen, but improving the transportation system would make living on North Campus more appealing for all students.
“If they fix the transportation system, I think that that would be something that would make it much more appealing because if you knew reliably when you could leave your house and (when) the bus would be there to get to class, it will help you save a lot more time,” Armstrong said. “I think that a lot more people would be open to living on North Campus because it’d be a lot easier to commute back and forth between campuses.”
According to Amir Baghdadchi, a spokesperson for University of Michigan Housing, Northwood III was built in 1958 and is the oldest group of buildings with an undergraduate community on North Campus. In an email statement to the Daily, he described the changes this project will implement and how it will impact housing in the coming years.
“The site will be able to accommodate 1200 beds, an improvement over the current 500 spaces,” Baghdadchi wrote. “The additional beds will allow Housing the flexibility to renovate older facilities with no impact on guaranteeing housing for incoming students.”
Baghdadchi also said the same number of on-campus beds will be available for incoming and returning undergraduate students for the 2023-2024 school year as in the previous two years, 2021 and 2022.
“Housing has approximately 9,500 beds for undergraduate students, and reserves space for new incoming students,” Baghdadchi said. “An additional 1,200 beds on campus would provide for more spaces for transfer students, and returning second-, third-, and fourth-years.”
North Campus houses the College of Engineering, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Stamps School of Art & Design, the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and an annex of the School of Information. While many students attend classes on North Campus, they are also often hesitant to live there. STAMPS senior and transfer student Josie Burck said the University suggested she live in the Northwood apartments in her first year. However, she ultimately decided against it due to a lack of immersion in campus life.
“I didn’t like (the Northwood apartments) because they’re not that integrated into anything on campus,” Burck said. “I really wanted to be in the thick of either a community for transfer students…or just in the city of Ann Arbor itself.”
LSA freshman Morgan Manchester, who currently lives in Baits II on North Campus, does not believe that the apparent isolation of North is a drawback.
“I think it’s a nice separation,” Manchester said. “I feel like I go home at the end of the (school) day.”
Students also described frustration and discouragement in their housing searches overall, but did not necessarily believe that this project was the perfect solution. Burck recounted her experience as a transfer student trying to find suitable housing while simultaneously meeting new people and adjusting to campus life.
“If they’re trying to target and create housing for transfer students, they need to do more than just create housing for them,” Burck said. “It needs to be a community that is built there for transfer students.”
Northwood IV and V currently have amenities on site for families, including playgrounds and a large Community Center that hosts events for kids. Jessica Pelton, LSA senior and president of the Michigan Caregivers and Student Parents, organization on campus also believes that adding more dorms is important to reduce student reliance on private housing providers. She specifically referenced The One, an apartment complex that delayed move-in for the fall of 2021, leaving many students without housing as the school year began.
Pelton previously lived in Northwood IV and said she was looking forward to the expansion of the Northwood community.
“Overall, I’m very excited,” Pelton said. “I think Northwood has needed to expand for a while.”
LSA senior Sherry Chen, an international student, discussed the difficulty of finding housing amid uncertainty about the pandemic and the format of her classes.
“For my housing this school year, I had to find it pretty late because I wasn’t sure about the visa or if (classes would be) in-person or online,” Chen said. “Since I didn’t want to commit so early, all the places I found were either really bad and in really bad condition, really far or really expensive.”
Chen added that while this undertaking may not directly address this type of difficulty in finding housing, it could be a good backup plan for students who are struggling to do so.
“I’m not sure if students who are third or fourth-year really want to live in dorms, and I don’t know if that’s the best way to address the housing shortage in terms of rent and everything,” Chen said. “But it could be a good last resort for anyone who’s transferring into the school or who didn’t have any plans or their plans fell through.”
Daily News Contributor Levi Herron contributed reporting.