Park Bethesda residents will no longer be able to lease rooms for nine months and will be subject to other lease changes following the adoption of a new contract in which AU students will live together with public residents.
“We have not met revenue targets at Park Bethesa since the building opened in 2002,” said Julie Weber, executive director of Housing and Dining.
Weber said that an insufficient number of students chose to stay in Park Bethesda for the summer, causing the facility to repeatedly lose money.
Housing and Dining chose the Riverstone Management Group to market a portion of the rooms to the public because Riverstone had experience working with other colleges, including Penn State University and John Hopkins University.
Additionally, Riverstone was willing to work with AU to create a system where Riverstone would be responsible for marketing 50 to 60 percent of the units, while AU would still offer units in Park Bethesda through the Office of Housing and Dining.
“They’re the ones who brought in the idea of a shared use model,” Weber said.
The other option Housing and Dining considered was to completely vacate the building, Weber said.
“Rents are going to be different,” Weber said. Students will have the option to rent space either through the Office of Housing or Dining or through Riverstone.
Weber said Riverstone rates were either the same or lower than AU rates, but Riverstone requires students to meet certain qualifying standards. Riverside prices also do not include Internet and cable. In addition, renting with Riverside does not allow students to charge the price of rent to their student accounts.
“We don’t care with whom students house,” Weber said. “We just want them to be housed.”
Eventually, all Park Bethesda residents will be required to have twelve month leases, however residents will retain the opportunity to sublet their apartment for the three months that school is not in session.
For the upcoming transition year, Park Bethesda residents will be able to maintain their nine month lease. Currently there are 426 students housed in Park Bethesda, about a hundred of which rent on a nine month lease agreement.
Students who wish to move to Park Bethesda during the transition year will be required to sign a twelve month lease.
Housing and Dining will maintain control of most of the studio and one-bedroom apartments, which are most popular among students. Because of the way these rooms are arranged throughout the building, there will not be separate floors or areas for students.
Riverstone will differ from Housing and Dining and will not charge flat rates for rooms with the same occupancies, instead they will charge premium rates for certain features, Weber said.
Weber noted there will be “charges for balconies, charges for patios, charges for which floor you’re on.”
Transportation options for students will also change. The shuttle from Park Bethesda to AU will only operate for eight hours a day, as opposed to the twelve hours it currently operates.
Students will also have to lease parking spaces through Riverstone and purchase campus parking permits. Currently students pay a discounted rate for an inclusive parking permit that allows them to park on campus and at Park Bethesda.
Students who return to Park Bethesda next semester will receive some added benefits. Riverstone will be opening a business center with computers and a fax machine, and they will be maintaining the existing lounge and fitness center. Housing and Dining is also looking into installing washers and dryers in all the rooms, Weber said.
Park Bethesda residents were notified of the changes on Tuesday by a letter that was delivered to their door. Weber and her office are to meet tonight with the Provost Council, the Park Bethesda Student Staff, the Park Bethesda RHA and the students themselves to explain the situation and address concerns.
Weber said this will affect on-campus housing, because Park Bethesda helped eliminate the on-campus housing crunch. In the upcoming semesters, Weber said that more on-campus rooms may be converted to triples, noting that the school can have a maximum of 272 triples based upon the amount of furniture and the health code regulations.
Weber and other representatives from Housing and Dining will be available to answer student’s questions. In addition, more information is available on the Housing and Dining website, and Weber says that the office will distribute hand-outs to help advise students.
“Our students always have an emotional reaction to change,” Weber said. “There are thousands of details to work out related to this.”