‘East Campus’ would cost AU more than $100 million

The most contested part of the Campus Plan, the new East Campus, could house 765 students right next door to local residents.

The new campus would include six buildings, including an Admissions Welcome Center, retail spaces and an underground parking garage on what is currently the Nebraska Parking Lot.

Construction would begin the summer of 2012 and finish by the fall of 2014, according to David Taylor, AU’s chief of staff.

The project would cost AU between $110 and $125 million, according to Jorge Abud, assistant vice president for facilities development and real estate.

Taylor believes neighbors are “afraid” of the proposed developments, because nothing has ever been built in that space before.

“The ‘something new’ factor, I think, no matter what you do where, is always going to create a little bit of a ripple,” Taylor said.

The space borders the Westover Place townhouses, whose occupants’ windows overlook the area.

Some residents have been vocal about the plans during AU’s community meetings, saying they will be able to look into students’ dorms and vice versa.

Neighbors were also worried about noise levels coming from the proposed campus.

“We don’t think it’s going to be the problem that some who live adjacent think it may be,” Taylor said. “You can walk on this campus any hour of the evening or the night and it’s actually pretty quiet.”

Several neighbors who have participated in these meetings could not be reached for comment.

Taylor said residents who live near Nebraska Hall and the Tenley Campus don’t have problems with student noise.

“Things are not wild and crazy there,” he said.

But because of that community input, AU changed the plans so an administrative building would act as a buffer between Westover Place and residence halls.

Neighbors also believe an increased number of students crossing Nebraska Avenue to reach Main Campus would pose safety concerns and extra pedestrian traffic.

Taylor said these concerns do not have simple solutions, but the University will look into them.

Originally, AU officials told neighbors the school was looking to bring students back onto campus with the proposed new dorms.

But in the draft plan, AU proposes to change its housing requirement. In 2001, the Zoning Commission required the school to house 85 percent of freshmen and sophomores and two-thirds of undergraduates in University facilities.

AU now asks that the total percentage of students housed on-campus be decreased to 55 percent, from two-thirds of students, because of “community resistance” to the East Campus and other new dorms. But AU says it would house 100 percent of freshmen and sophomores, up from the current 85 percent.

AU’s dorms are supposed to house 3,533 students, but with tripled rooms and a lease with the Berkshire Apartments, currently 4,083 undergraduates live in AU facilities.

The Campus Plan calls for on-campus housing to increase to 4,100 total beds, after AU officials originally proposed 4,900 total beds to neighbors.

Taylor said lowering the number of beds is a “trade-off” to neighbors, who asked for fewer buildings near the community.

If fewer buildings are constructed, fewer students will be housed, he said.

“We can’t drive it further in, you’re not going to put housing on the quad,” he said.

Taylor believes the East Campus would give students a better on-campus experience.

“At the end of the day, we still need housing, we need to utilize that parcel and we think that’s an entirely appropriate place for students to be,” he said.

sdazio@theeagleonline.com

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