More than 1,000 new beds coming to CSU

More than 1,000 new beds will be added at Colorado State University over the next 18 months or so and plans are in the works for even more.

That is roughly a 20 percent increase in the number of on-campus beds that will be available for students. New off-campus apartments also are now under construction.

Keeping up with CSU housing needs has proven to be a challenge – and opportunity. Enrollment at the university was approximately 27,000 during the fall semester, up from 24,500 in the preceding semester. Projections show enrollment rising to as much as 35,000 over the next 10 years.

It doesn’t help that multi-family housing is scarce in Fort Collins.

In the fourth quarter, the city’s vacancy rate for multi-family residences was just 3 percent, the lowest in the state, according to the Colorado Division of Housing. The rate was even lower in the northwest portion of town surrounding the CSU campus, at 1.2 percent.

Student housing is further complicated by the fact that not all multi-family complexes allow students. Fort Collins’ “3-unrelated” law, which restricts the number of unrelated people living together to three, also creates difficulties.

In the interest of finding solutions to the crunch, the city last year commissioned a student housing action plan. City staffers are preparing to present the plan to the City Council in May, according to Beth Sowder, Neighborhood Services Manager for the city.

The goal is to create action items, such as potentially making changes to the land-use code, which would decrease the number of hurdles that must be overcome to establish new student housing projects.

Input will be sought from the university’s neighbors and property owners, the Fort Collins Board of Realtors and the North and South Fort Collins Business Associations.

The city hopes to meet with these “stakeholders” by the end of March, Sowder said.

“We’re trying to maintain an open mind,” Sowder said. “We want to get what’s right for this community.”

One item that will not be considered is revising the 3-unrelated rule, according to city documents. The regulation has both supporters and dissenters in the community, Sowder said, and the city will be working to provide better outreach to help residents understand the law and why it is in place.

“It’s really about zoning and preserving single-family neighborhoods,” she said. “It’s not about making it difficult for students to find housing.”

Front Range Community College, which has no on-campus housing, also is involved in the process. Front Range’s enrollment at its Larimer campus was just over 6,400 in the fall semester, according to the college.

In the meantime, several new student housing projects are in the works, as developers try to cash in on the demand.

The Commons, a 220-unit development near the intersection of Prospect and College, broke ground last fall and is being developed by Alabama-based Capstone Development.

Pura Vida, a 52-unit student housing development, is also under construction on Laurel Street, and the 218-unit Grove, after two years of contention and some retooling by the developer, should break ground this month, according to Grove site designer Linda Ripley.

More projects are currently under review and could potentially add to the 12,077 total bedrooms in 57 complexes throughout the city that can be rented by students.

CSU also has projects in the works to house its swelling ranks, according to Tonie Miyamoto, who is with the university’s Housing and Dining Services operation.

There are currently more than 5,300 beds on-campus, Miyamoto said, with plans in motion to add 120 beds to Parmelee Hall by the end of this year and another 120 to Braiden Hall by the end of 2013.

By the fall of 2014, CSU expects to have completed its Lory Apartments, also on-campus, with 600 beds.

The university will also reconfigure the use of two existing dorms, Westfall and Durward, which are currently being used as two-person rooms.

The rooms in these halls, affectionately known as The Towers, are designed to function as quads, Miyamoto said, and CSU will begin using them in that way as the market demands.

In all, more than 1,000 new beds will be added to CSU’s campus by the fall of 2014.

More such projects could take place after 2015, depending on financing, the economy and other factors. These plans could include the redevelopment of Newsom and Allison Halls and to eventually add at least 600 new beds. Redevelopments could also occur at Aylesworth Hall and Aggie Village North, but projections on the extent of the redevelopment are not yet available.

Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR

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