Over the weekend, the KSU Foundation posted on social media about future plans to turn a corner along Anderson Avenue into a near-campus housing location for university alumni. The proposed location would be directly across from the Alumni Center and Memorial Stadium.
Students and alumni alike responded with varying degrees of support and dislike for the proposed housing structure.
As an alumnus, I find this incredibly disappointing. Not only is the timing bad with many students struggling under the current circumstances, this does nothing to improve affordable housing or the sad state of many buildings on campus. Please reconsider your efforts.
— Chase McCormick ◢ ◤ (@C_McCormick42) April 12, 2020
The project, called the Alumni Village, has been in the works for several years, said Greg Lohrentz, KSU Foundation chief financial officer and senior vice president for operations and finance. The groundwork for it started when the university asked the foundation to “[protect] the perimeter of campus for future development.”
An early plan for the corner was to turn it into a multi-unit student housing option, but a survey turned out by the foundation showed little student demand for what would have been a “public-private partnership.” Lohrentz said that project was abandoned.
Later on, thoughts of converting it into a retail space were floated, but that idea turned out to not be “economically viable.”
At the moment, the foundation owns a block of about eight houses usually occupied by students, but Lohrentz said they are in disrepair.
“A residential building product that brings alumni and friends closer to campus provided a unique option for these land assets,” Lohrentz said.
Senior in marketing and former Student Governing Association chief of staff Sadie Polson supports the Alumni Village project. She served on the inaugural Real Estate Student Advisory Board committee with other SGA leaders.
“The K-State Alumni Village is a wonderful opportunity to connect loyal alumni to our active campus community,” Polson said.
Pranav Savanur, junior in biology, said he has some concerns with the project.
“The goal might be to bring in more alumni to invest into K-State,” Savanur said. “My primary thought for this is that it is absolutely unnecessary to invest millions of dollars into luxury apartments while that budget could have been optimized to serve students in a better way.”
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A big concern Savanur has is that the the high cost of these complexes could inflate the cost of other housing in the area. The minimum cost associated with the units is anticipated to be about $500,000. Construction for the project, which will be financed by incurring debt, will cost about $14.5 million.
“Once the debt is paid off, any additional income will go toward underwriting fundraising efforts to support K-State,” Lohrentz said.
This project, Savanur argues, subverts the goal of the university.
“The land grant mission has become very corporate,” Savanur said. “We need to think about what it means to provide education for normal students.”
Polson said she can see where other students might have problems with the project.
“I understand many students are concerned with the KSU Foundation’s decision to invest in the Alumni Village when many campus facilities are subpar and students are experiencing incredible debt like never before,” Polson said.
The project timeline is a little uncertain, but the Alumni Village website says it could take up to two years to finish after construction begins. The foundation needs certified letters of intent from 11 potential homeowners before construction can start. The finished Alumni Village will have 22 living spaces.
Lohrentz said since the project was unveiled in 2018, there have been about 50 people who have shown interest in purchasing a home in the Alumni Village.
“There were a few campus leaders who supported this act and a few who disagree with this,” Savanur said. “The common ground [is that] both the groups care immensely for K-State.”