Housing booms at CMU

The Orchard Avenue Apartments complex has been built on Orchard Avenue near 12th Street, just north of the Colorado Mesa University soccer facility. The complex is the fifth project for student housing completed in the past six years on the campus.

Photos by DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—John Marshall, vice president for student services for Colorado Mesa University, walks in one of the common areas at the Orchard Avenue Apartments, the university’s newest housing unit. Residents will have to maintain good grade-point averages and not have histories of misbehavior at other residence halls.

Colorado Mesa University will show off its newest residence hall, Orchard Avenue Apartments, during an open house from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. today.

The four-story, 59,000-square-foot apartment complex at 1062 Orchard Ave. is the fifth residence hall built on the Colorado Mesa campus in the past six years. The complex features apartments with two single bedrooms and two double bedrooms, or one of each, linked by a common kitchen, two bathrooms, and a living room with patio doors that open to a balcony. Each floor has study areas and a lounge, plus free laundry machines.

The $11 million apartment building has room for up to 192 residents, which means the school can house 2,065 students campus-wide, more than double the capacity of residence halls in spring 2006, when the school was still Mesa State College.

The Colorado Mesa system, which includes the Montrose campus and Western Colorado Community College, has added nearly 3,000 students since Grand Mesa Hall opened in the fall of 2006 and enrollment has grown continuously year-over-year since 2005. The school’s housing requirement has remained the same, however: Most freshmen and sophomores younger than 21 must live on campus unless they live with parents or a spouse.

The result has been a housing shortage that landed some late housing applicants in hotels for the first few weeks or months of school in recent years. The university offered some upperclassmen incentives to live off campus last year, but decided not to do that this year, according to CMU Vice President for Student Services John Marshall. Marshall said some sophomores with financial or other difficulties were granted permission to live off campus this fall, but he’s hopeful the new apartments will allow Colorado Mesa to house all students who want to live on campus by the university’s census date two weeks after classes begin Aug. 20.

“We’re not going to be in quite as dire straits” with overcrowding this year, Marshall said. “We’re still going to find a bed for every student and my guess is we will do that by census, but we may have to have a few students in hotels short-term if we get an influx (of applicants) in the next few weeks.”

Marshall is confident demand and supply are getting closer to the same number, although a fall 2011 survey by Maryland-based student housing research firm Anderson Strickler LLC found the university has enough interest from students in on-campus living to pack in another 510 students if it makes room.

Ground is scheduled to be broken Aug. 16 on another student housing complex between Texas and Elm avenues east of Cannell Avenue. The estimated $12.7 million project will be the first building in a cluster of residence halls in that part of campus that will be called Renaissance Village, Marshall said. As with the new apartment complex, the next project will be paid for through bonds that will be paid off by student housing fees.

Renaissance Village’s first building will offer more “traditional” residence hall rooms, Marshall said, which is a change of pace from the suites in three of the newest residence halls built on campus and apartment buildings on North Avenue and Orchard Avenue. Marshall said the apartments on Orchard, which are available only to sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students, offer students a “premium” living space close to campus but allow them to live without a meal plan if they choose.

Students in Orchard Avenue Apartments must maintain a 2.5 or higher grade-point average, and they have more independence in the apartments because each floor has a community adviser instead of a resident adviser. Community advisers serve more of a reference than a mediation role with residents. Consequently, students with a history of misbehavior in other residence halls aren’t likely to get approval to move into the new apartments.

“We gave priority to students who have done the right things inside and outside the classroom. The students who get to enjoy it have earned it,” Marshall said.

Students also have to earn more money to live in Orchard Avenue Apartments. At $3,418 per semester for a double room or $3,770 per semester for a single room, the apartments are the most expensive living option on the CMU campus. Marshall said the price is higher because the university is planning to pay off bonds for the building sooner and because the facility is a nicer one than some residence halls.

University-managed apartments are becoming a trend on or near the campuses of most public institutions of higher education in Colorado, with the most expensive rent in an apartment complex at Colorado School of Mines, where students can be charged rents of up to $5,880 per semester. Colorado Mesa’s newest apartments rank in the middle among apartment rents in university-owned buildings, while CMU’s older Walnut Ridge Apartments are toward the bottom in rent.

Although Orchard Avenue Apartments filled up within the first two weeks housing sign-up was available, Marshall said 15-year-old Monument Hall always fills up first, likely because of the hall’s mid-range price and central location on campus. That fits the university’s theory of expanding with housing beyond just one type or cost, according to Marshall.

“Our challenge is not to get overloaded in any one room style or price point,” he said.


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