South University area may see new student housing high-rise

Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 8:22pm

The South University Avenue business district is preparing to undergo a 10-story change.

Hughes Properties is working with Hobbs + Black Architects to construct a new student housing building near the intersection of the Diag and South University. The building will offer a combination of four-, five- and six-person bedrooms to appeal to a wide range of students, and it will include commercial spaces on the ground floor.

It will replace a few buildings along the north side of South University between Church Street and East University Avenue, though Espresso Royale and TCF Bank will remain standing.

Over the past years, high-rises such as these have been controversial, with students pointing to them as one of many examples of unaffordable rent downtown.

The cost to rent in the South U. building has not been disclosed. However, rent at Landmark — another off-campus student housing building near South University — is $1,200 per person per month for a four-bedroom. Rent is $2,100 per month for a two-bedroom at University Towers, which is also located in the area.

Chang Yang, an LSA sophomore, said she supports the expansion of students’ living options, but emphasized the inaccessibility of safe, affordable housing for students close to campus. She added that she worries students are expected to sacrifice safety, security and convenience when searching for apartments.

“More student housing in this area is good, especially because most concerns about housing involve safety,” Yang said. “It’s good that the apartments will be so close to the Diag and Central Campus, but, on the other hand, places in these areas charge a lot for housing. This is frustrating because it implies that safety comes only with wealth.”

LSA sophomore Tara Jayaram echoed Yang’s sentiment.

“It depends on the price,” she said. “If it’s affordable off-campus housing, then I’d be really happy about it. But if it’s something like Zaragon Place, I just feel like it wouldn’t be worth living there.”

However LSA sophomore Jessica Bleiweis, a current Landmark resident, said she believes the cost of rent at high-rises like hers reflects the quality and convenience of her experience. She added that she appreciates the amenities provided by the complex, which offer her a more comfortable living arrangement than that in dorms.

“I feel like (the new building) would be a really good idea,” Bleiweis said. “I know that there are people who are struggling with finding housing, and, if it’s as nice as Landmark, I’m sure they’ll get a bunch of people who want to live there.”

Ron Hughes, a developer at Hughes Properties, declined to comment about future development plans and the completion date when contacted by The Michigan Daily Tuesday. However, to move forward, the project will first need to be reviewed by the city’s Design Review Board and the city’s Planning Commission, and then approved by City Council, a process which usually takes at least several months. Specific dates for design review board or planning commission meetings that would include a review of the project were not available Tuesday.