As UR continues to expand at its frenetic pace — growing both in terms of employees and students despite the recession that has curtailed the financial vitality of other educational institutions — the University’s plans to build housing in the Plymouth Exchange neighborhood, which borders the 19th ward, are moving forward to keep pace with the growth.
As part of the Brooks Landing development — a mixed use public/private project that has been ongoing for more than a decade — UR is working with development company Christenson Corporation to build an 11-story building adjacent to the Staybridge Hotel to house at least 144 students and possibly as many as 170.
A restaurant that will be open to the public will occupy the first floor of the building. According to UR Chief Financial Officer Ronald Paprocki, the restaurant has not yet been decided on, but the developer has indicated that “a group is eager to be part of the project.”
Paprocki said that UR was not deterred by the prospect of building close to a neighborhood that is notoriously high in crime, emphasizing that the University has been committed to the development project since it was first proposed.
“We have no reservations about the location,” he said. “We have nearly 400 students living close by in Riverview, and this is very popular housing.”
UR also has about 100 staff members working in the Brooks Landing Business Center across the street, which opened in 2009. About 800 faculty and staff live in the 19th ward, as well as 400 UR students in the nearby Riverview Apartments and another 800 UR students living off campus in the 19th ward area, according to City Council member Dana Miller.
Paprocki also noted that the housing will be close to the pedestrian bridge, making it a convenient and potentially popular location for students to live.
Although nothing is finalized on the project — it is awaiting approval by the State Historic Preservation office and the city planning committee — some amenities, which will be similar to those in the Riverview Apartments, have already been decided on.
The furnished apartments will likely be for upperclassmen and will be two, three or four bedroom.
“I believe they will be as desirable if not more so than Riverview,” said Director of Residential Life Laurel Contomanolis. “[There will be] great access to campus, high rise design, close parking and easy access to businesses on Brooks and Genesee Street.”
Such businesses include a Subway that opened this week, a sushi restaurant called California Rollin’ that is in the works and a recently opened diner.
No construction start date has been set, but Paprocki estimated that the apartments would be open for students in the fall of 2013.
Miller said that a public hearing held this fall saw unanimous support for the project and that neighbors enthusiastically supported the fact that the road connection between the hotel parking lot and Elmwood Avenue, previously temporary, would become permanent.
He also noted that the building will strengthen ties between the community and UR.
“We’re very excited to have additional students,” he said. “The foot traffic in the area will increase access to businesses and it will be an opportunity for student and neighborhood connections.”
As evidenced by the construction of the new dorm in Founders’ Court on the River Campus, which began at the start of last fall semester and is slated to be open to students in fall 2012, demand for campus housing is already high, and it’s on the rise.
Paprocki said that “small, step-wise” increases in undergraduate student enrollment are part of UR’s strategic plan for the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering. Seligman announced last October that the University plans to increase the enrollment to approximately 10,000 students by 2016.
Contomanolis said that UR houses 80 to 85 percent of its undergraduate students on campus, rendering the need for housing more serious as UR nears an undergraduate enrollment of 5,000 students.
“The new residence hall will help us significantly for the next academic year, but beyond that, I expect enrollment will rise to the level that we will need additional beds to satisfy the demand,” Contomanolis said.
Buletti is a member of the class of 2013.