Colleges upgrade housing to meet students' needs Trend sees pupils living on campus

September 06, 1992|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Staff Writer

Like many college students, James Genus rented an apartment in Bolton Hill in past years to be near his classes at Maryland Institute, College of Art.

But this year, the 22-year-old senior bypassed the apartment hunt and moved to student housing owned and operated by the college.

He is one of the first residents of The Commons, a four-story, $12 million complex the college built to provide more supervised housing for undergraduates.

Although the 166-year-old institute operated a "freshman row" in town houses along Mount Royal Avenue and reserved a block of apartments in the nearby Sutton Place tower, The Commons is the first student housing it ever built from scratch. The construction is part of a nationwide trend toward colleges and universities upgrading student housing and providing more of it to meet demand from parents and students concerned about the drawbacks of off-campus housing in large urban centers.

Mr. Genus, a senior majoring in visual communication and illustration, believes it will make a big difference in fostering a sense of community among the students.

"It's a chance for students to be together after classes and break down the barriers between disciplines," he said.

Living on campus also enables students to concentrate on their studies instead of dealing with apartment hassles, he added. "You don't have to worry about the landlord or the phone bill or fixing a broken light. You can focus on what you're here for: education. It takes the burden off of you. You don't have to grow up so fast."

Designed by Schamu, Machowski, Doo & Associates Inc. for a 5.7-acre parcel at McMechen and Brevard streets, The Commons is one of five new or refurbished living quarters opening on Baltimore-area campuses this fall, which represent more than $50 million worth of construction.

Other local institutions with new or renovated housing this fall include the Johns Hopkins University, Towson State, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Morgan State University.

Loyola College and the University of Maryland at Baltimore also have built or refurbished housing in recent years, and others are planning to in the future.

'There's a real demand'

Maryland Institute President Fred Lazarus said that although students are not required to live at The Commons, 149 of the 168 freshman have chosen to, and upperclassmen are filling most of the remaining spots. For the first year, about 270 of the 350 beds will be occupied, and administrators expect that number to rise in subsequent years as freshmen opt to stay at The Commons when they become upperclassmen.

"There's a real demand on the part of students to live on campus again," Mr. Lazarus said during a tour of The Commons. "Security is an issue and so is being able to control rents. What concerned us was that students were being forced to move farther and farther away from campus to find affordable housing."

Brian Rey, a 21-year-old senior, said he likes the security and convenience of The Commons as well as amenities such as the 17 artists' work areas that are interspersed throughout the complex.

He also likes the opportunity to mingle with students from different classes and disciplines. "You have a community where everyone around you is an artist, so you're stimulated a lot more," he said.

"Before, there was no central meeting place" for students and faculty, agrees Mr. Genus. "Now, because the residents range from freshmen all the way up to seniors, there will be much more opportunity to interact after class than there was in the past. It makes communication a lot easier when you don't have to go across town to see someone."

Though administrators' goals are essentially the same, each new project represents a different approach to meeting students' housing needs.

At Hopkins, 523 sophomores are moving this weekend into McCoy Hall, a 63-year-old apartment house at 3401 N. Charles St. that has undergone a $12.4 million modernization to prepare it for continued use as student housing.

It is the fourth of four Charles Village apartment buildings to be recycled in a $35 million campaign by Hopkins, Henry J. Knott Development Co. and Frank Gant Architects to provide upgraded housing for more than 1,200 students.

Other recently refurbished buildings include Bradford Hall, Ivy Hall and Wolman Hall, all along St. Paul Street between 34th and 33rd streets. With the completion of improvements to McCoy Hall, Hopkins has housing for 1,900 of its approximately 3,100 undergraduates, university spokesman Dennis O'Shea said. As of this year, the university requires that all freshmen and sophomores live in university-controlled housing, he added.

Moving in this weekend

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