As University students scramble to find off-campus housing for the next school year, they may soon have more options than they expect.
Eduardo Icaza, the owner of Keystone Construction, plans to have a six-unit apartment at 828 Greene St. — located near Main and Hill Streets — to be ready this fall. Each unit will have six bedrooms, meaning that a total of 36 people will be living in the three-floor building.
But neighbors have expressed concerns that the building will not meet the needs of the neighborhood or students.
When the proposal was first presented to the city Planning Commission, it voted 7-1 against the motion to approve the project because, like neighbors, they were not convinced that the plan was the best for the location. However, when the Planning Commission votes on a matter, it is then sent to City Council for deliberation, regardless of the decision made by the Planning Commission.
In the case of 828 Greene, because Icaza”s plans met the city code, the City Council was required to approve it at its meeting on Jan. 18, further compounding the concerns of the neighbors.
‘It isn”t a neighborhood that students necessarily want to live in,’ said Julie Weatherbee, a resident who lives around the block from 828 Greene.
She emphasized that the neighborhood is not opposed to students living in the area, as she has several student neighbors. However, she and others are worried that because of the building”s distance from the University, the apartments will not sell and the neighborhood will be forced to deal with the consequences of another empty building in the area.
Neighbors emphasized that Icaza has been unresponsive to their concerns, but he said that most of the concerns, other than that with parking, were unfounded.
‘The neighbors had good intentions, but really had no ground,’ Icaza said.
He added that the property would be attractive to students because of its proximity to the band practice field, Crisler Arena and several other prominent campus locations.
As of now, Icaza”s best estimate as to the cost of the apartments is about $600 per month, per student.
Each unit will have two living areas with furniture, two bathrooms and a large common kitchen with two refrigerators, a stove, sink and dishwasher.
Regardless of the amenities offered, neighbors are not convinced that students will be willing to live so far from campus.
‘I don”t mind if there are students living here. … It”s that this is not a good building,’ Weatherbee said.
‘I don”t think the neighborhood is getting a great deal, I don”t think the students are getting a great deal, I don”t think the city is getting a great deal,’ she added.
Like the wary neighbors, some students remain skeptical about Icaza”s plan.
‘I would not want to live in this “niche.” It sounds like a dive,’ said LSA freshman Sarah Jones.
However, Jones also said that because of the lack of affordable and clean housing available for students, a place like 828 Greene might be one of only a few options in the long run, despite the lack of personal space that she would have in such an apartment.
‘Living in a campus town is not cheap. … Not in the frats, not in the dorms, not in the co-ops and definitely not on your own,’ she added.
Despite the concern, several students said they feel that this apartment building will provide the perfect opportunity for an off-campus housing experience.
‘I think that the (new) Greene apartments (will) provide a great, clean and affordable housing option. The location makes it easy to walk, bike or take the bus to campus. Also the six-bedroom setup allows for a nice balance between private and social space,’ LSA freshman Ben Swanson said.
Along with the other amenities offered by the apartment, each single-person bedroom will include a built-in desk, shelves, closet and bed.
In the basement, there will be three washing machines, three driers and indoor bicycle storage. There will also be 10 parking spaces available on the property.
Icaza said that he will guarantee one parking spot per unit and the remaining four will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis. He added that a lottery is a viable option, but one that he had not considered before.
High-speed Internet, cable television and water will be included; however, students will be responsible for paying for gas and electrical costs.
Icaza also mentioned that students who do not receive a parking spot on the premises might take advantage of the several University lots in the area.
He also said he intends to have one of the students living in the apartment be a ‘student manager’ — similar to a resident advisor — who will be responsible for dealing with problems and basic clean-up issues. Icaza said he has yet to determine if the student manager will be trained by the University and also whether he or she will receive payment for their work or a stipend for their rent.
Icaza said he plans to start demolition and construction in the next few weeks, rather than wait until spring when the construction season begins.
59 percent of local residents support additional funding for public transit.