Housing boom provides more options for University of Kentucky students

bfortune@herald-leader.comJuly 10, 2012 

Hayley Myers has lived for the past six months at 5 Twenty Four Angliana, a large housing complex on Angliana Avenue targeted at University of Kentucky students.

On Tuesday, as temperatures approached 90 degrees, Myers and a couple of friends were in their bikinis lounging beside the swimming pool, one of many amenities Myers enjoys by living off campus.

The 740-bed complex, which backs up to The Red Mile racetrack, has a fitness facility, stand-up tanning beds, movie theater, pool table and ping-pong tables.

It is one of at least eight large residential developments that have opened on the west side of the UK campus since 2005, reshaping an area traditionally known for tobacco warehouses and older homes.

Three more projects are under construction and will add approximately 1,600 students to that area during the next year.

"I like the convenience of having everything in one place," Myers said. She lives with three roommates in a four-bedroom apartment that has a kitchen, living room and private baths for each resident. Her rent is $575 a month.

The next project, scheduled to open later this summer, will be 5 Twenty Five Angliana, a 320-bed development with three-story town houses and one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans.

Two more developments are scheduled to open in July 2013.

The Collegiate on Angliana will have 700 beds.

And demolition started 60 days ago on the Tattersalls sales pavilion for a 607-bed housing project by American Campus Community on 10 acres adjoining The Red Mile.

American Campus Community owns Newtown Crossing apartments, also on South Broadway, which opened in 2005 with 340 apartments targeting UK students.

"Newtown Crossing has a private, million-dollar bridge across the railroad tracks that their students use. Kids can leave their cars, walk over the bridge and that puts them off Scott Street in the heart of campus," said James Frazier III, a Lexington attorney who represents American Campus Community, based in Austin, Texas.

A key selling point for the new American Campus complex is that those students also may use the bridge for ready access to the university.

The force driving this building boom of off-campus housing is a generation of students who want amenities not found in decades-old dormitories or older houses in neighborhoods near campus where students have lived for years.

Private developers have responded to student demands with apartments equipped with dishwashers, micro-waves, refrigerators, high-speed Internet and cable access, and panic alarms. Some complexes have swimming pools, outdoor grills, fitness facilities, yoga studios, tanning beds, basketball and sand volleyball courts, movie theaters, pool tables and study rooms.

"My parents said these apartments aren't like the dorms they lived in when they were students in college," said Taylor Warren, a recent UK graduate and leasing assistant at 5 Twenty Four.

Rents are competitive among the complexes and are priced per bed. The Collegiate on Angliana will charge $774 for a one-bedroom apartment, $665 a bed for a two-bedroom and $550 a bed for a four-bedroom. Each bedroom has a private bath.

Student housing is undergoing massive changes, not just at UK but across the country, said Bob Wiseman, UK's vice president of facilities management. "It's one of the critical issues of being able to compete.

"Students come to college today with different expectations. They want a good living environment," Wiseman said. Many students grew up having a private bedroom, and many times they had a private bath. That's what they want when they come to college, he said.

UK generally has been supportive of the private housing along South Broadway and Angliana. It has eased the pressure on neighborhoods to the north and east of campus, where absentee landlords bought houses and converted them to student apartments, many times poorly maintained.

"Anecdotally, I hear as a result of the new competition, landlords have begun renovating some of those properties. We think that is a positive," Wiseman said.

Derek Paulsen, the city's planning commissioner, said the city would be attentive to the area west of campus where private student housing is concentrated. "A key is that the developments are well maintained," he said.

"From a larger perspective, we want to make sure it is diversified with services that students need to make it into a sustainable, viable area. We are concerned that it doesn't become just student housing," Paulsen said.

The university does not think that private housing is eroding the base of students it traditionally attracts to dormitories. "We like to keep freshmen and sophomores on campus for better retention rates and better learning skills," Wiseman said. "Parents want their students on campus for the early years. "We've been able to do that."

When beds are available, even some upperclassmen opt to live in dorms.

Enrollment at UK in fall 2011 totaled 28,000 students, with more than 4,100 freshmen. Freshmen enrollment this year is expected to be 4,800, university spokesman Jay Blanton said.

The average cost of living in a UK dorm for one semester is $4,510. The dining plan is $2,332, but various options are offered.

About 5,200 undergraduates live on campus. A new dorm due to be completed in 2013 will add an additional 601 beds. UK hopes to replace most of its aging dorms during the next five to seven years.

"Ultimately, our target is to have about 9,000 beds on campus to accommodate freshmen, sophomores and some upperclassmen," Wiseman said.

Dorms will be built in different configurations, he said. Some will be two-bedroom suites for four students, others will be apartment-style.

"We're going to be pretty comparable to private developments," he said. "But we won't have pools and tanning beds."

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010.

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