Developers John Yurtchuk and David Huck have collaborated on numerous projects since 1988, and UR’s Riverview Apartments are no exception. Yurtchuck, who heads marketing on the project, is the President of the Matrix Development Corporation, and Huck, who manages construction, works at Regent Construction. Both firms are located in Amherst, N.Y.

Both Yurtchuk and Huck have reached out to the 19th Ward community as they put together their plans for the new project.

“We’ve always tried to involve those residents in the plan so they’re not ambushed or surprised in the planning meeting,” Yurtchuk said.

Despite their efforts, recent changes to the building plans have generated discontent among members of the Plymouth Exchange Neighborhood Association. Such alterations included taking out two entrances to the complex; these were eventually reinstated, albeit without keyed access.

“I think that, [in] the little furor that we had taken two doors out, they felt that we had been turning our back on the neighborhood,” he said. The developers ultimately made a $100,000 change.

“Sensitivities are something you don’t really know until you have a dialogue,” Yurtchuck said. “We responded? We talked about it, said ‘We think that’s fair’ and we changed it.”

Yurtchuck explained that he arranged his plans around the wishes of the community.

“They wanted not one big building, not like a resort, so we broke it out into five buildings – two bigger buildings, three smaller ones,” he said.

In addition to feedback from the PLEX Association, Yurtchuck worked with the University to fine-tune the designs.

“I think, at the end of the day, we’ve redesigned it four or five times,” he said. “I think we ended up with a better project.”

Despite the community’s initial response, Yurtchuck said that he believed this development has the potential to help the neighborhood.

“We think down the road that this will stimulate redevelopment of the housing stock that’s already there,” Yurtchuck said. “I think that type of development of residential type usage – it goes both ways. Students get exposed to that type of area.”

Yurtchuck elaborated on how the development could be an economic boon to the 19th Ward community .

“Certainly, when you put 400 students there with disposable income, you’re going to have an effect that’s positive on the community – that’s the proposal that we made when we first proposed the project,” Yurtchuck said.

That being said, he did not rule out working on future development projects in the immediate neighborhood.

“When you move into the market, your interest is in follow-up projects. You get to know the area, know the community. We spent a lot of time at PLEX meetings.”

Just as changes were made to the complex to accommodate the community members of the surrounding area, others were made to change the style of living for students.

One of the major changes included a shift from shared bathrooms to individual bathrooms, making each bedroom more comparable to a suite.

“In contrast to the typical housing stock you see on campus, we wanted to set ourselves apart from what you see on [River] Campus,” Yurtchuck said.

Director of Residential Life Laurel Contomanolis agreed that the apartments were designed to fit into the surrounding neighborhood rather than simply aim to copy existing buildings on UR River Campus.

“I don’t think it necessarily looks like a residence hall. They were trying to look for something that matches some of the look of the University but felt right for the PLEX neighborhood,” she said. However, she still maintained that UR students would feel comfortable inside.

“The inside is definitely apartment style,” she said

In addition to his wishes to look into future projects in the area, Yurtchuck said that he would look into once again working with the University, who is likely to be a major player in the neighborhood later on.

“We’re always looking out to involve the U of R up front,” he said. “We want to work as a liaison between the University and the community.”

Contomanolis indicated that she would consider working with Yurtchuck and Huck in the future.

“We are in a five year lease with John Yurtchuck [for Riverview] and then we have the option to purchase [or renew the lease],” she said. “This gives us time to decide if this works for us, or if it doesn’t work for us. We’ll see.”

Contomanolis said that despite this addition, as enrollment increases, the housing problem is going to become more defined.

“Two, three, four years down the future, we are going to need more housing,” she said.

The apartments should be completed in August, and tours will be given as early as April.

Epstein is a member of the class of 2010. Addtional reporting by Ben Wrobel.

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