Developer plans student dormitories off campus

Simone Realty, Inc., a developer in Lawrenceville, is interested in building a privately owned dormitory to house College students.

The building, which will be located approximately two miles from the College, will be able to house up to 600 students.

According to John Simone, president of Simone Realty, Inc., the purpose of the project is to provide a solution to students who do not make the housing lottery cut.

“Through the lottery system, the kids don’t get on-campus housing,” Simone said. “We understood that there was a huge need for this type of housing.”

Simone said the idea for the dormitory originally came from conversations he had with members of the Ewing community. He said many of them complained about the noise and other problems that arise from students moving off campus and renting houses.

“The bad news that you hear is about the partying and the late-night drinking and the noise,” Simone said. “We decided that the property, not surrounded by any houses, would be the perfect area for this type of housing.”

The property will be protected by 24-hour security and the development will be complete with a gym, pool, outdoor recreation areas, social rooms, dining areas and a shuttle to the College. In addition, housing is to be limited to students.

“Any resident there will have to be a registered student at a local college or university and we will not rent to others even if we don’t fill the building with students,” Simone said, adding that “everything indicates that (the project) will be successful.”

However, according to Curt Heuring, vice president for Facilities Management, Construction and Campus Safety at the College, the College does not plan to support the project.

“After careful consideration, we determined that the housing (Simone Realty, Inc.) was intending to build did not further or support the mission of (the College),” Heuring said. “As a result, we not only declined to participate, but also were very clear about not endorsing the Simone development . The College is not a partner, participant or supporter of this proposed housing development.”

College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said the College intends to focus its efforts on the construction of the Metzger apartments and “significant other improvements for student living on the campus,” which she said are included in a conceptual plan for the residential program.

According to Matthew Golden, executive director of Public Affairs and Communications, the apartments will house 400 students. Following renovations and demolitions to other residence halls outlined in the College’s master plan, the College will gain a total of 257 beds.

Golden said the College is currently able to offer on-campus housing to roughly 3,600 of more than 5,800 full-time undergraduate students enrolled. The housing lottery has been used to determine which students receive room assignments since the early ’90s.

According to Stephanie Polak, associate director of Residence Life at Rider University, Rider will be implementing a similar housing lottery beginning in fall 2009. The university considered denying housing to rising juniors and seniors for the academic year beginning in fall 2008, but many students were under the impression that they were guaranteed housing for four years.

“We had changed the policy, but we didn’t know if there was a document somewhere that still said housing was guaranteed,” Polak said. “What will happen for some rising juniors and seniors is they may be tripled up in double rooms, but we will do that only in the effort to get everyone who is eligible.”

Polak said the feedback she received from students suggested that they would rather live in a triple than be denied housing. She also said some form of discount will be given to students in that situation.

While Rider University is not currently affiliated with any privately owned dormitories, Polak said she would be open to the possibility.

“We would very much like to investigate (Simone Realty, Inc.),” Polak said. “For that idea in general, absolutely we would recommend our students to go look that way.”

Joan Carbone, executive director of Residence Life at Rutgers University, said Rutgers also uses a housing lottery to offer 13,000 beds to approximately 25,000 undergraduate students. While Rutgers only guarantees housing to first-year students, Carbone said students with numbers at the low end of the housing lottery tend to opt out, enabling the university to accommodate most of the students who request university-owned housing.

Carbone also said Rutgers provides Residence Life staff to a privately owned apartment building that houses students.

“That building is quite popular,” she said. “There are obviously advantages to living in a dormitory that is owned by the school, but (the apartment) certainly is a good second choice.”

Simone’s project will be considered by the Ewing zoning board on April 17. The developer is requesting a zoning variance because the property is not approved for multi-family or student housing. If approved, engineers will have to finalize the site planning and architectural elements before construction can begin.