171214_HOUSING

The State Building Commission on Wednesday approved UW-Whitewater paying $1.11 million annually to rent the 73-unit Cambridge Apartments as housing for 285 students.

Angela Major

MADISON

UW-Whitewater will lease an apartment building in August to help ease a chronic shortage of on-campus housing.

The 73-unit Cambridge Apartments is located on North Harmony Lane, across Koshkonong Drive from the athletic field complex on the campus’ north side.

The $1.11 million annual lease will provide housing for 285 students and the same security, social programming, counseling and other services provided to students living in residence halls, according to the university.

University residence halls have a design capacity of 4,141 students, but UW-Whitewater this year has 4,800 first- and second-year students required by state statute to live on campus unless the university cannot provide housing.

Residence halls have operated at more than 110 percent capacity for seven years. The university has entered into short-term agreements with local apartment owners to house 450 students in campus-managed apartments.

That arrangement does not meet statutory requirements, Frank Bartlett, UW-Whitewater director of housing, told a State Building Commission subcommittee Wednesday.

He said the Cambridge lease would meet the requirements.

The five-year lease gives the university an option to back out if enrollment declines. It also allows two five-year renewals.

“We can be there a long time,” Bartlett said.

UW-Whitewater had offered traditional double-room occupancy dormitories built in the 1950s and 1960s until it opened a suite-style Starin Hall in 2010. The suites—with individual bedrooms, kitchens and lounge areas—drove up the demand for on-campus housing the university has been struggling to meet ever since.

“(Living) on campus is a good experience … It results in higher retention and graduation rates,” said Alex Roe, UW System liason to the building commission.

Underclassmen living off campus thought they would escape the rules of conduct that apply in residence halls, Bartlett said, but that isn’t the case and won’t be at the Cambridge, either.

Resident assistants will be assigned to the Cambridge building to enforce residence policies and report maintenance issues to the university housing office.

The university wants to operate the Cambridge lease on a break-even basis like the residence halls, Bartlett said. Rates have not been set, but based on the current year’s rate of $2,536 per semester for a double room and a 4 percent vacancy rate, the university expects an estimated income of $1.3 million. Expenses, including the lease and staffing are estimated at $1.29 million, Bartlett said.

On-campus housing will be bolstered by construction of a 410-room residence hall scheduled to open in August 2019.

The 50-year-old twin towers-style dorms such as Wells East and Wells West are being considered for demolition and replacement. The UW System has been re-thinking that costly plan and may choose to instead extensively renovate them, Roe said.

That decision will take some time because the UW System is taking a long-term look at providing on-campus housing, Roe said.

“It’s a 15-year timeline,” she said.

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