May 15, 2009
Students not sold on new off-campus housing
Developments will add about 450 new beds this fall with another 500-bed project in works
Shannon Lacombe looks at her house at 49 Lincoln Ave. as a transition to life after college.
“The people on this street know each other, and when the weather is nice, you see guys out in the street throwing a football around,” said the SUNY Cortland senior earlier this week. “That’s what I think of when I think of college.”
Lacombe has lived in one of two apartments at the house for the past two years. The location is only a few blocks from campus and downtown.
SUNY Cortland students tend to favor location and cost when they look for off-campus housing. They prefer easy walking distance to campus, being surrounded by other students and the parties they host, and closeness to downtown.
After that, they split between preferring apartments or houses.
Few of 13 students polled in the past two weeks said they were interested in large apartment complexes such as College Suites, the 350-bed project being built in Cortlandville, or The Grove, a 500-bed project proposed for Cortland by a North Carolina company.
The Grove’s builder, Campus Crest, has said it will open the housing in the fall of 2010 but has not begun the permit process with the city. The complexes offer a swimming pool, volleyball court, fitness center and tanning salon.
For this fall, housing projects totaling about 450 beds are being finished, with College Suites the biggest and costliest at $3,600 to $4,100 per person per semester.
United Group Development, the Troy-based developer, has offered a $400 discount in recent weeks. The complex will have a fitness center, laundry, game room and free wireless Internet.
Houses and apartments around the edge of campus cost about $2,300 to $2,500 per person.
College Suites is over one mile from campus. Residents will need a car or the company would need a private shuttle service, since SUNY Cortland’s shuttle to the college-owned West Campus apartments will not stop there, college officials said.
The Grove is being planned for a spot a half-mile from campus.
“I understand College Suites isn’t filling up too fast, but most students signed leases in September and October, so we won’t know how much demand there is until next fall,” said senior Margaret Rainsford, Student Government Association president.
Rainsford was surprised by the housing being built or planned.
“There’s not a lack of off-campus housing,” she said.
One senior, Chris Cain, has been looking at West Campus and College Suites because he can get a one-semester lease there. He has one more semester of classes.
Social life matters, too.
“I wouldn’t personally want to live in a big apartment house,” said graduate student Shawn Pulvermiller, who lived in houses as an undergraduate. “On Groton Avenue, I had friends around all the time — like one big block party.”
“The bar scene is so huge,” said grad student Eric Lasky, one of Pulvermiller’s roommates when they were undergrads.
Lasky lived one year at the old clock tower building, which burned in 2006 and had to be demolished. A new building is being constructed on the site, with 17 apartments.
Lasky’s friend Anne Cegla, a senior, said students do not tend to visit friends farther from campus.
“True,” Lasky said. “I lived at West Campus one year and nobody came out there. A friend of mine lived in apartments behind Footie’s Freez, on Tompkins, and I never went out there.”
West Campus has resident advisors in buildings, so it is somewhat like living on campus, Lasky said.
SUNY Cortland students cannot move off-campus until junior year, but this semester some sophomores were displaced as their residence hall was closed for renovation.
Six male sophomores rented 46 Lincoln Ave.
“This house is being renovated so it’s not the best, but it’s livable,” said one of them, Steve Manning, watching TV with his housemates in their living room. “The biggest thing is who you want to live with, how many people.”
Manning said the two sets of roommates and two other friends wanted to stay together, so they looked for a house rather than rooms on campus. They will live at 82 Lincoln Ave. next year.
Senior Nicole Alvarez, who lived in an apartment for two years at 29 Clayton Ave., said she would consider College Suites for its amenities. But she said she would need a car, which would add to the cost.
Junior Kyle Mynter said he liked his house at 28 Clayton Ave., but would prefer an apartment next year.
“Nine guys lived in this house,” he said, sitting on his front steps. “Right about now, we’re getting into conflicts. I’d prefer an apartment complex, even if it’s 300 beds, if it’s close to campus.”
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