When the Lawyers Club closes for renovations next year, first-year Law School student Randy Abbott will no longer be able to get cereal from the club’s dining hall while wearing his sandals, one of many things he said he will miss most about the Club.
“It’s a short walk,” he said in the club’s dining hall yesterday. “It lets me keep my Rainbow (sandals) on 24/7. I appreciate that.”
Abbott is one of many students who will be impacted by the coming renovations to the residence hall in the Law Quadrangle. In preparation for the closure of the Lawyers Club, the Law School reached an agreement with Prime Student Housing to lease four of their properties exclusively to Law School students. As a result, many students who were planning to re-sign in the buildings for the coming year will be displaced.
The Law School rented apartment buildings at 726 S. State Street, 721 S. Forest Avenue — which is Forest Place Apartments — 520 Packard Road and 511 E. Hoover Avenue exclusively for Law students.
Sarah Zearfoss, director of admissions at the Law School, said the school’s intent in reserving the buildings was not to displace other students, but to seek additional places for prospective first-year Law School students to live during the quad’s construction.
“We’ve been quite open about it, and it seems to be that it would have been, frankly, irresponsible of the Law School not to come up with some alternative,” Zearfoss said.
The renovations are being funded by a $20 million gift from University alum Charles Munger, who is vice chair of Berkshire Hathaway.
Law School Dean Evan Caminker wrote a letter to Law School students and faculty in March, explaining the need for the renovations.
“We have long recognized a need to address aging infrastructure and structural issues in the residential buildings, and this gift provides the means to do so in addition to creating more contemporary living space for students,” Caminker wrote.
Caminker said in an interview on Monday that the Law School reached out to University Housing for additional space, but the request was denied because the University wanted to reserve rooms for undergraduate students.
Preliminary plans for the renovations include installation of an updated fire suppression system and energy-efficient appliances, as well as the addition of single-person bathrooms. Diane Nafranowicz, director of the Lawyers Club, said the Lawyers Club hopes to present the schematic design for the project to the University’s Board of Regents at their meeting next month, in which she anticipates the board will approve the plan.
Students and faculty responses to the closing and renovation plans are mixed, but Nafranowicz said she expects the long-term benefits of the closure will be clear when the renovations are complete.
“We have such an exciting and vibrant campus in the Law Quadrangle, especially with the completion of South Hall, that all I can predict is that people will be thrilled about this,” she said.
Zearfoss said the Law School fosters a sense of community among faculty and students, and the Lawyers Club serves as only part of that.
“I think the Lawyers Club plays a role in creating that, but I don’t think it’s the beginning and end of it,” she said. “I don’t think that having it closed for one year is going to create a sense of disruption in our community at all.”
Zearfoss said the closing of the club could potentially impact Law School admissions with the decrease in housing options, though she predicted it ultimately would not impact enrollment.
According to Zearfoss, the Law School has sent information about housing options, both off-campus and in the Lawyers Club, to admitted students with their acceptance packages in the past. This year, admitted students will receive a similar package, which will feature the four buildings the Law School has reserved, Zearfoss said.
Zearfoss said she appreciated the importance of creating a social environment for first-year Law School students.
“We need to make it as easy as possible for people to choose to relocate from wherever they currently are to come to Ann Arbor, and providing a housing option for at least some part of that class is an important consideration,” she said.
LSA freshmen Ifham Ahmed and Sipu Miah, residents of The Forum — a Prime Student Housing property located at 726 S. State Street — won’t be able to renew their leases for the 2012-2013 school year.
They said Prime Student Housing taped a notice to their door about one month ago notifying them that the Law School reserved the building. Miah, who has been living in the apartment with three roommates since he came to the University, said the poster felt like an eviction notice.
“We love this place,” Miah said. “We’re situated over here. It feels like home now, and the fact that we’re going to have to leave and go somewhere else is kind of disturbing.”
In the days after receiving the notice, Miah and Ahmed said they were upset about the decision since they hoped to stay in the apartment for the remainder of their time at the University.
“If we could, we would sign a four-year contract,” Ahmed said.
They said their anger subsided after a few weeks, once Prime Student Housing offered to accommodate them in one of the properties the Law School did not reserve for next year. Miah said the housing company gave him and other residents of The Forum “first dibs” on leases in their other buildings and waived many of the transfer fees.
Prime Student Housing declined to comment for this article.
In the Lawyers Club’s dining hall yesterday, Abbott and first-year Law School students Keith Diggs, Nick Herrera and Peter Keros discussed their concerns about the incoming class of Law students not having the opportunity to live in the Lawyers Club.
Herrera said he doesn’t anticipate students missing “much besides the short commute.”
“I think they would miss a lot, but to be fair, once this thing is done it’s going to be awesome,” Diggs said.