City Center ResidencesTask Force
City Center Residencies: Exploring a New Residential Option
In recent decades many schools have partnered with local developers in the creation of new residence halls. Instead of a traditional model in which colleges build, own, and maintain all of their residential facilities, these arrangements call for colleges to work closely with developers to build some number of residential facilities that serve the colleges’ needs, but which are owned by the developer. The college then pays rent for each housing unit to the developer. Revenue to pay for this rent typically comes mostly from student room charges.
For the last year we have been exploring such an arrangement with Hendricks Development Group – a local company - with an eye to understanding whether our mutual interest was sufficient to engage the Beloit College community in a serious (and time-consuming) conversation about the economic and programmatic merits of this idea. The specific property under consideration is known locally as the “Wagner building” in city center. It consists of a substantial part of the block on the south side of Grand Avenue to the west of Turtle Creek Bookstore. The Hendricks Development Group now owns the building. They expect to tear it down and replace it with a three story structure with non-residential uses on the first floor and residential housing on the second and third floors.
While the dialogue, to date, has been substantive – enough to convince me that I am not wasting the college’s time to take the conversation to a new level – we have not seriously and systematically addressed the programmatic opportunities and risks such an arrangement would likely offer.
Of critical importance - more important than the economic arrangement with the Hendricks Development Group - is that the development of this residential option is in city center. Of course, as a college we have limited experience with housing far removed from College Street north of Emerson. It is exciting to imagine the potential a new housing option such as this offers, but it also provokes nervousness about the cultural changes such an option might engender (intentional or not). Engaging and leading the community to a more thorough and thoughtful understanding of the potential of a city center residential option is necessary for senior staff and me to make an intelligent recommendation to the Board of Trustees; one that we can say with confidence promotes the mission of the college.
Towards that end I have asked Dean of Students Christina Klawitter to chair a task force to address the expected programmatic implications of city center residences – this one in particular. The following people have generously agreed to be members of the team: Nancy Krusko, Ruth Vater, John Winkelmann, Jonathan Vantreeck, and Matthew McKay.
The essential questions I am asking this intrepid team to explore include:
- In what ways should we expect city center residences to impact the college community on both the south and north sides of campus?
- In what ways might we think about city center housing differently than other housing on campus? How does this housing complement the portfolio of housing options the college offers? How might the option of city center housing put residential life at the college at risk? Can we be confident that a sufficient demand for this housing will exist?
- What safety and security issues, if any, would need to be addressed and how should we do so?
- What exciting learning possibilities, particularly those promoting the liberal arts in practice, might be facilitated by city center residences?
- In what ways would we expect city center housing to advance the mission of the college?
To advance responses to these questions (and others that the team develops), I expect the team will engage their work by doing the following.
The Work of the Team
- Prompting candid and creative conversations with and among members of the campus community in the development of an understanding of the impact city center residences would likely have.
- Seeking input from other colleges who have experiences with similar types of student residences.
- Working, as needed, with appropriate professionals at the Hendricks Development Group to conceive of the living spaces inways that best promote a healthy, productive, and comfortable student experience.
- Being responsive to a Board of Trustee Oversight Committee that will be formed to help lead the full Board to a decision about this project by the Spring Board meeting.
- To deliver a summary report to the President by December 15. The report should include responses to the questions posed earlier in the document.
- Members of the work team are being chosen not as representatives of different constituencies, but as valued community members whose varied experiences here or at other institutions, combined with their commitment to the college as a whole, and their highly respected judgment, makes their collective wisdom extremely valuable.
- The number of beds under consideration is between 50 and 75.
- We should expect the city center residences, if we were to go ahead with this project, to be a part of the Beloit College residential housing program into the foreseeable future.
- Because the Hendricks Development Group cannot be asked to wait indefinitely for a Beloit College decision, a Board of Trustee decision must be made by the Spring Board meeting at the latest.