The University of Michigan-Dearborn, without campus housing for most of its history, broke ground Monday on “The Union At Dearborn,” a new $30 million complex that will eventually house some 500 students.
Monday marked an historical event in the university’s history.
“The University of Michigan-Dearborn is the last public university in the state of Michigan to have student housing,” according to Chancellor Daniel Little.
“It’s not a huge deal in terms of real estate, except to the University of Michigan-Dearborn and it’s students, both present and future.”
Preparations for the project already began last week, following an agreement was reached after four years of sometimes difficult negotiations.
Larry Winokour, managing partner of Urban Campus Communities (UCC) began this process in 2008.
“There were many detours and diversions, but this marks the beginning of our one year construction period,” he said. Mark Smith of Huntington National Bank, along with Winokour, signed the loan commitment yesterday, to mark the end of the process.
They hope to complete the construction by Labor Day, 2013. Ford Land owned the property before UCC purchased the property, as it was a former trucking diagnostics center, and before that, it was a Children’s Palace.
Donna Inch, Chairman and CEO of Ford Land was easily convinced to turn this property into new student housing.
“It will make a great impact on this community,” said Inch.
Originally, the property was supposed to be a developer for the Fairlane Community, a place to live, work, and play. “This is a perfect project for this community, said Inch.”
Mayor of Dearborn, Jack O’Reilly said that this was “an important day, long and coming,” for the city of Dearborn and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
The biggest problems during the four year process was financing. Not many banks would finance the loans, as they wanted UCC and the University to guarantee 70% of rooms full.
“How do we know if you build it they will come, and we knew, even though the study indicated pent up demand, and that there was probably over 2000 students that wanted to come to U of M-Dearborn, if they had a dorm available, the problem was simply was that we couldn’t prove it,” said O’Reilly. “That was a challenge all the way through.”
Brownfield Tax Credits were able to commit $2.5 million because the buildings met the threshold for obsolescence, which means the building was in the process of becoming obsolete, and had no use.
“This will allow us to continue to grow both undergraduate and graduate students on our campus, but it’s much more significant to the campus than that, because it’s really about the transformation from what was 15 years ago, a not very engaged student body, but with leadership, from people like the person who’s gonna speak next, (Student Government President, Dennis Lienhardt) our students have become more and more engaged, and a residential option will push that level of engagement, a whole step, maybe two or three steps further,” said Chancellor Little. “It’s about a new kind of university experience.”
The university is growing. Over 9,000 students are enrolled on campus a record for the university.
“I certainly can speak on behalf of the entire student body, when I express how excited we are to see the dream of student housing at the University of Michigan-Dearborn become a reality,” said Lienhardt.
The University will be spending money. In a memorandum, UCC will be renting space in 780 Town Center Drive, and will have 15,000 square feet, among the 36,000 square feet available. Nine, two-bedroom dorms will be available. A gym, an info desk, a student lounge, offices, food service, a theater, meetings rooms and a fitness center is included in the university’s space.
It will resemble a new “University Center” for students. The other 500 beds, which will be available sometime in the near future, will become available on a first come, first serve basis. Some space will be allotted to freshman.
UCC is also working one other property in Michigan, called The Union at Midtown for Wayne State University. UCC hopes for more campus housing projects in the future for the University of Michigan-Dearborn if this all goes according to plan.
Pricing for the rooms will be available within 30-45 days according to Winokour.
You can find more information on The Union at Dearborn clicking here or contacting Louie Gramer at 248-613-3069.
To read the original article that appeared in the third issue of The Michigan Journal, on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, go to www.michiganjournal.org