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Students seek off-campus housing

Nicole Zook | Monday, February 2, 2004

Many Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students have already signed their leases for off-campus housing next year, said managers of local apartment complexes.Officials representing traditionally popular off-campus options confirmed that leasing is proceedingly strongly for 2004-05. Tammy Michaelbrink, the property manager at Turtle Creek, said many students have chosen to renew their leases from this year, while the number of new renters is about the same as in previous years.”[Students] like it here, and we love to have them,” Michaelbrink said. “Pretty much all of the renters here are students, besides the staff. I live here, and we have on-site maintenance and two security officers.” Turtle Creek – drawing 95 percent of its renters from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students – maintains a flexible system and is still taking applications for next year, Michaelbrink said. “We had just started leasing in October,” she said. “We don’t like to pressure kids three years in advance to sign to live here.”Castle Point Apartments also attracts many students, sales manager Marianne Loftus-Heon said. “Twenty-five percent are students, but out of that 25 percent, there are three and four students per apartment,” she said. Notre Dame junior Kathryn Wendel said the mixed atmosphere of students and older residents was one deciding factor in her choice to live in Castle Point next year. “Castle Point is the least expensive and nicest of the complexes, despite its longer distance from school,” Wendel said. “Also, because it is not just for students, I will be able to interact with many different types of people, which is something that I think many people forget about while on campus at Notre Dame.”In preparation for studying abroad this semester, Wendel signed her lease in early October. Some students, however, are not so prepared -causing complications as the signing deadline nears.College Park property manager Patty Russworm said students attempting to renew their leases later on in the year can create problems. “Five percent of them just assume that since they’re already there, they automatically get their apartment next year,” Russworm said. These students then are left to sign up late or not at all – College Park has been sold out of apartments since early October. “We have a list for the [20]05-06 school year starting already,” Russworm said. “One hundred percent of all our renters are students.”Some complexes, however, have not begun that renting process yet. The former Campus View Apartments, renamed Clover Ridge, has come under new ownership that aims to focus on this year first.Lisa Donlon, property manager of the recently purchased apartments, said the complex is remodeling and does not want to begin leasing until the renovations are complete.”So far, we’re in the middle of remodeling. We’re putting in new carpets, dishwashers, washers and dryers – all of it,” Donlon said. “We’re looking to start leasing at the end of February or early March.”Management hopes that new rent-covered inclusions such as Internet access and basic cable will lure students to Clover Ridge.Many Saint Mary’s students, however, said they will not take the bait – instead turning to the new on-campus apartments. Junior Michele Firmstone said the proximity of the apartments is a major selling point. “It’s convenient. There’s no driving issue,” Firmstone said. “The apartments are already furnished, and we won’t have to worry about paying rent and utilities every month.”Saint Mary’s director of Residence Life Michelle Russell believes the apartments are a strong draw. “It’s an option to the independence of students without having to move away,” Russell said. “You’re close to class, close to the heart of campus – yet you still have your own kitchen, your own apartment. You get that freedom.Saint Mary’s Residence Life reported receiving more applications than there are spaces for the new apartments. There will be a lottery for the 12 double and 12 quad apartments on Feb. 3. If a student is not chosen, her room deposit will roll over to the regular room drawing. Firmstone said relying on the dorms as a back-up plan is not an option for her.”We looked into Castle Point and Turtle Creek, but as soon as we heard that the apartments would be open for our senior year, we kept that as our first option,” she said. “If we don’t get one, we are still moving off campus.”Jeff Shoup, director of Notre Dame’s Residence Life and Housing, said the popular perception of the entire senior class moving off campus is misconstrued. “There actually aren’t a lot of students moving off-campus,” Shoup said. “As students stay here longer, they know more and more students who live off-campus. They think that means that everyone wants to move.”Shoup said that on average, 5 percent of sophomores, 25 percent of juniors and 55 percent of seniors choose to live off-campus. Notre Dame had difficulties finding space for all the students living on campus this year, he said. “We had more students return to campus this year than the year before,” Shoup said. “We began the year with no openings and had 30 people on the waiting list for housing.”Notre Dame eventually converted over 30 lounges into dorm rooms and now has four or five spaces available on campus. However, many students are attracted by the freedom that off-campus housing offers and are making the decision to move now. “My friends who had lived off campus previously really enjoyed the independence and freedom that off-campus housing provided them,” Wendel said. “I am looking forward to those very things.”