Trustees OK financing for new UF dorm
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 7:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 7:53 p.m.
A new dormitory designed with special features to accommodate students with "multiple handicap challenges" is one step closer to becoming a reality at the University of Florida.
The UF board of trustees Tuesday unanimously authorized a $25 million finance plan for the 82,000-square-foot, 255-bed dormitory to be built adjacent to Disability Resource Center in the Yulee housing complex along Southwest 13th Street. It must go to the Florida Board of Governors for final approval.
"It is not a huge amount considering the size of our student body, but (the additional dorm beds) are very important to us," Dave Kratzer, vice president for student affairs at UF, told the board during a conference call.
The project is part of a master plan to address the demand for more student housing and meet a goal to have 24 percent of the student body living in university housing by 2015.
Norb Dunkel, associate vice president for student affairs, said the university is already within 1 percent of that goal, with close to 11,000 students living in undergraduate residence halls, graduate and family housing and Greek housing.
With university housing currently maxed out at full capacity and a waiting list of 600 students this fall, the university is desperate for more housing. The new dorm will increase the number of available undergraduate beds to 7,745, housing officials said.
The university commissioned a study of the Gainesville housing market to determine the best way to spend its housing money, Kratzer told the board.
After looking at off-campus and public/private partnerships like the Continuum, the consultant said UF's proposal was the best design and location to meet the university's needs, Kratzer said.
The site is a gently sloping grassy area in the historic area of campus between Reid Hall and Southwest 13th Street, and across the street from Norman Hall, home to the College of Education, which just secured a $25 million grant to work with disabled students, Kratzer said.
"It all fits together," he said.
The new dorm will have a lobby with a reception desk, a large gathering room, laundry and vending machines, student lounges on each floor, shop space, mailboxes and office for staff.
The room configurations will have a combination of single- and double-occupancy units as well as "super suites" of four or six.
The most unique features include an instructional kitchen for training in independent living skills, a live-in faculty member, one graduate student hall director and seven resident assistants. It also will be fitted with state-of-the-art features like wider halls and wider elevator doors.
Because of those "upticks," Dunkel said, the rent will be higher than the typical dorms. Rent, including utilities, is expected to run from $773 a month for a six-person suite to $870 a month for a single-person suite.
"I understand the unique characteristics of the building to be compliant with disability requirements," board member Juliet Roulhac said.
Some parents are already asking about the new dorm, Dunkel said. They have had to find off-campus housing, even going as far as buying homes and retrofitting them to accommodate their children's needs so they can attend UF, he said.
"Or they choose not to come here because we can't accommodate them," Kratzer said.
Construction is expected to begin in November, upon approval of the Board of Governors, and be completed by August 2015. The total cost for the project including design, pre-construction and fees is $23.4 million.
The Department of Housing and Residence Education is kicking in $1.53 million in cash and the rest will be financed through the sale of bonds, to be paid off with revenue from rental fees, damage assessments and late payment charges.
UF's rental income for 2012-13 was $47.26 million, with $14.364 million pledged for bond debt. Pledged revenues are projected to grow to $21.4 million in 2016-17, officials said, based on a 5 percent annual rental rate increase.
"Our debt position is very good," Dunkel said.