Morgan to ask state to OK student housing contract

$37 million complex to house up to 800

March 26, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Morgan State University officials plan to ask the state Board of Public Works tomorrow to approve a contract for a $37 million student dormitory complex on the site of the former Pentridge Apartments, recently demolished on the west side of campus.

The planned facility - on 13 acres between Loch Raven Boulevard and Perring Parkway - will house up to 800 students and provide 270 parking places, state documents show. A brisk timetable for completion shows that three-quarters of the housing should be occupied by August of next year. The final element, a building for 196, is expected to be completed in the fall next year.

The project would be financed by state-issued tax-exempt bonds, Board of Public Works documents show. The cost is nearly as much as that of the university's $40 million arts center, finished last year.

Clinton R. Coleman, the university spokesman, said yesterday there is a pressing need to expand student living on campus. A housing crunch can hurt campus cohesion and morale, university officials have said.

"We are nearly at capacity and have had to turn away students for admission because of the lack of housing. The trend here is that students want campus housing," Coleman said. In general, commuter colleges are seeking more campus housing.

Morgan enrolls about 6,300 students, mostly undergraduates, he said. About 2,000 of those live on campus, university officials estimated.

A&R Development Corp. was chosen as the lead developer, while Marks, Thomas & Associates is the architectural firm working on the project.

One Northeast Baltimore community leader said she and other neighbors monitoring the process were pleased with the plans so far.

"We felt that Morgan was partnering with the community in getting student housing in the same brick style as the neighborhood," said Paula Purviance, former president of the Hillen Road Improvement Association, who was involved in reviewing responses to the request for proposals.

But hard feelings lingered among some former residents of the Pentridge Apartments, which Morgan State acquired two years ago for $3.26 million and decided to tear down for student housing. "It was a decent community gone to waste," said Truxon M. Sykes, 58, who said he misses his friends and former neighbors, many of whom are elderly. "It's devastating."

Sykes went to live at the Northwood Apartments on East Cold Spring Lane, also owned by Morgan State, and recently was forced to move again by the university, he said, to make room for students.

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