Administration Addresses Housing Concerns

ALEXANDRA BODE | Staff Reporter

Butler University President James Danko described the student housing development as “a duck on the water.”

“Because, as you look around campus, you don’t necessarily see the thing yet, but there’s a lot going on under the water,” Danko said.

Butler partnered with American Campus Communities, a company based in Austin, Texas, to develop more student housing on campus.

American Campus Communities was founded in 1993 with a sole focus on student housing.

The company has worked with a variety of schools and is currently working with Princeton University.

The process also includes lead architect Solomon Cordwell Buenz, lead contractor Shiel Sexton, and Cripe Architects and Engineers, the site designer.

Cripe has already provided service for Butler, including work on the Pharmacy and Health Sciences Building, Hinkle Fieldhouse and the new parking lots, including the I Lot built last summer.

Butler has looked at the cost to update residence halls, and determined it will cost nearly $25 million per building, Danko said.

Approximately 65 percent of the replacement effort will be covered by such funding, so Danko said it would be better to replace the building.

In the process, eight firms were considered, but “out of these there was a clear front runner,” Danko said.

Danko said the partnership with American Campus Communities allows Butler to move faster and helps to finance the projects.

“The scope of the master planning process encompasses the renovation or redevelopment of approximately 1,200 to 1,500 student beds and related student amenity space,” according to a Butler University press release from April 17.

The goal is to get the first set of new beds ready by fall 2016.

The university plans to do this without closing any existing residence halls.       “We do not want to just improve life for today’s student but the student of the future,” said Jason Wills, senior vice president of on-campus development for American Campus Communities.

Sustainability, food services and facilities management will also be examined during the process.

“We manage a lot of communities,” Wills said. “We feel we are very capable of managing campuses, but this is a very unique university and community. There is flexibility.”

The residence life staff will manage these facilities, according to Butler officials.

Focus groups consisting of students, faculty, staff and parents are also part of the future plan for student housing.

“The way to create momentum is to do a lot of listening in the beginning,” Wills said.

The student-specific focus groups will consist of a diverse group of students of different housing situations, genders, ethnicities, organizations, and both Greek and independent students.

There will be an additional group of solely independent students, since many of these students have indicated interest, said Levester Johnson, vice president for student affairs. These students want the communal feeling similar to Greek students.

“You will have options to fit each experience as freshmen, sophomores, as juniors, et cetera,” Wills said.

Regarding price, Bruce Arick, assistant treasurer and vice president of finance and administration, said a market study will be done to look at a range of rent.

“(The new buildings) will have some impact on room rates as we move forward, but still have options for all students,” Arick said.

Sophomore Ryan Kelly attended a housing discussion last Thursday as a Ross Hall representative because, he said, he cares about Butler’s future.

“I feel comfortable with American Campus Communities working on this project,” Kelly said.
“But I still feel like they are going through a process. Butler has been talking about this for two-plus years. I’m ready for a course of action.”

The administration agrees with a call to action.

“LJ and I would like to have this done before we retire,” Arick said.