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Plan Mandates Housing for More Students

Some have disputed whether the University needs to grow at such a rate.

But University officials say they have a plan to accommodate all additional students.

The lingering discussion has been made somewhat moot by the town's passing of UNC's Development Plan on Oct. 3.

Plans to accommodate new students now have been given the green light.

A Bed for Every Head

The late Chancellor Michael Hooker developed a plan in 1998 for "a bed for every head." His mission was to provide a residence for every new student enrolled at UNC.

Hooker's plan was part of a deal made with town officials that aimed to combat a high cost of living in Chapel Hill.

In 2000, the average house in Chapel Hill sold for $311,000, almost twice as much as a home in Durham.

Town officials worried that the University's growth would only add to students' demand for housing in Chapel Hill, further inflating the cost of living.

But UNC officials were aware of the town's concerns and took them into consideration when devising plans for the largest growth project Chapel Hill and the University have ever seen.

"We didn't want to push more students into the community," said Sue Kitchen, vice chancellor for student affairs.

"When we first started talking about enrollment, members of the town were very adamant about us accommodating that growth on campus."

More Space for More Students

During the next 10 years, students will be shuffled repeatedly to accommodate a complex housing plan for South Campus.

Four residence halls, the construction of which is in progress, will be completed by spring 2002, and students will begin moving in for the fall 2002 semester.

Four rooms will be suite-style with two double bedrooms sharing a semiprivate bathroom. The residence halls will provide 900 more beds for undergraduate students.

Although the four residence halls were not part of the Development Plan, Karen Geer, administrative officer of facility planning, said the new residence halls will facilitate the progress of the Development Plan.

"They're almost finished," she said. "Only the buildings that are going to be built from now forward are in the Development Plan, but (the residence halls are) going to house a thousand students.

"They will start the migration of students to the South Campus."

Next, a new married student housing complex will be built in the Baity Hill area. Eleven three-story buildings will be constructed and eventually will replace the Odum Village apartments. University officials say the 50-year-old apartments are in dire need of repair.

"They're very old, so the infrastructure is falling apart," Kitchen said. "The pipes, the heating, the air conditioning -- they're well beyond their life expectancy.

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"We need a more modern design to put our families into."

After the Baity Hill apartments are built, Odum Village will serve as undergraduate housing while Hinton James and Morrison residence halls are consecutively renovated.

Both Morrison and Hinton James hold about 1,000 students. University officials estimate the 306 apartment units in Odum Village apartments will accommodate the students adequately.

"We don't want students to move into the community while we renovate," Kitchen said.

"We don't want them to be too crammed, but it's not uncommon for students to live with two or three others in an apartment."

Eventually, Odum Village will be torn down, and the space will be used to construct more undergraduate housing and additional UNC Hospitals facilities.

Boosting the Appeal

In 1996, the Chapel Hill Town Council approved a new fire code, requiring all fraternity and sorority houses to have sprinkler systems. Shortly afterward, UNC adopted similar plans for its residence halls. Six residence halls have complete sprinkler systems. But an effort to furnish the rest is under way as part of the Development Plan.

Now, Hinton James and Morrison do not have sprinkler systems, but University officials plan to add them.

While renovating Morrison and Hinton James, University officials have a plan to make living in the residence halls more appealing so students will be more inclined to stay on campus.

"We collected lots of information from students," Kitchen said. "What we found in our marketing studies was there were students living off campus that would rather live on campus, provided the housing would accommodate their needs."

Kitchen said air conditioning would be installed in all rooms in both Hinton James and Morrison.

In addition, the four-room suites now found in the two residence halls might be transformed into three-room suites with a common study room. Another option might be a suite of four single rooms.

Kitchen said, "We think we cannot only build housing to accommodate new housing growth, but students will choose to live on campus."

Angry Residents

Although University officials are touting the merits of the plan, changes have been a sore spot for residents in the Mason Farm Road neighborhood.

Several of the sites slated for new housing prompted concern from residents of the nearby Mason Farm Road neighborhood.

"It will depend a lot on what these buildings look like," said Philip Rees of 503 Oteys Road. "It's going to be a very different neighborhood, and we wish we could have gotten them to keep the wooded buffer."

The Town Council removed a special-use permit Oct. 3, the same night the council approved the Development Plan. The permit, created in 1980, ensured a 200-foot vegetative buffer near the Smith Center.

The buffer will be eliminated to allow for new housing under the Development Plan. "I can appreciate for neighbors who live there that it's more attractive for a wooded area than for housing," Kitchen said.

But University officials also hope while the wooded buffer will be removed, a housing buffer will be just as appealing to residents.

Putting It All Together

Despite criticism, UNC officials say the Development Plan construction will link older projects, enabling campus facilities to absorb enrollment increases.

"As the campus grows we will be housing new students in those dorms, and the Development Plan basically addresses the addition of those new students," Geer said.

"The whole purpose of us trying to increase housing and classrooms and things are to accommodate the new student population that we'll be expecting."

The City Editor can be reached at

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