University Village apartments to be ready for fall semester

Students will be able to begin leasing University Village apartments this month, and the new residences will open in the fall. Leasing will begin before general housing signup in late March, so that students can plan accordingly if they don’t get an apartment.

Of the 800 rooms available, 720 will be leased to undergraduates, 40 to graduate students and 40 to law students, following agreements made between the schools before construction began. As the agreement stands now, medical students will not be able to lease rooms.

To sign up to live in the Village, undergraduates must have junior or senior credit standing. The longer the student has lived in on-campus housing, the greater the chance he or she will have to live in the Village. If the 720 rooms do not get filled after giving priority to these students, leasing will open to students that live off campus and want to move back on campus.

The Village, which was estimated to cost $61 million last year, will have 41 one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments; 81 two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments; 48 four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments, and 101 four-bedroom, four-bathroom apartments.

The Village, the University’s first new housing in 36 years, will be operated by JPI, a Dallas-based firm that manages luxury and student residences around the country, including at nine universities, according to the company’s website.

“This is a whole new venture for the University,” said Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president for student affairs and the University’s point man on University Village. “We looked at the experts who have experience in doing this.”

Leases for University Village will be 12 months long, which means students will have to commit to living there for an entire year. Leases will be granted individually, as opposed to a group of students. A group of friends can choose to share an apartment, for example, but they will each have an individual lease. Likewise, students can sign a lease without having a group of roommates; they will be assigned to an apartment. All apartments will be single-sex.

Living in the Village apartments will be like living off campus, with a pre-qualification process for leasing and rent due every month. The rent will include a Village parking permit, utilities, cable and Internet access, although utilities may be capped. In fact, the tag line the University and JPI are using is “on-campus living with an off-campus feel.”

“Students will have independence but still be on campus,” Arias said.

Although prices for the units had not been released as of Wednesday, JPI representatives said they would be competitive for the area, with a premium because of the Village’s proximity to campus.

JPI’s leasing office, which the company will begin to staff next week, will be located in the apartment area, in room 42G. It has also taken apartment 36D as a design center, showing off what the University Village apartments will look like in terms of furniture, floor finishes and wall colors, so that students can get an idea of what the quality of the apartments will be like. JPI will also be launching a UM-affiliated website so students can apply to live in the Village online. The website will also list prices and show the apartments’ amenities.

Apartments will include a microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer, as well as a parking space for each person.

Because Village residents will have a parking space, they will not be allowed to park on campus until after 4 p.m. on weekdays. A pedestrian walkway from the Village to the Yaron intramural fields was constructed to join campus with the new residences. A Village shuttle route will also transport students to and from campus.

University Village residences will employ 10 or 11 “community assistants” (CAs), which will perform some of the administrative duties that RAs have on existing campus housing. The ratio of CAs to residents will be similar to that of the on-campus apartments. A full-time leasing representative will be living in the Village, as well as a property manager. The University will handle discipline issues jointly with JPI, Arias said. Students will still have to abide by University housing rules-for example, no smoking will be allowed.

The Village will also house a student support center, which will include a convenience store (run by Chartwells, like the one in the UC), and mail, computer and conference rooms.

According to Arias, the construction schedule for the Village is tight and will depend somewhat on weather conditions and on how quickly the last building permits are issued by the city of Coral Gables. If, due to construction delays, the buildings were not ready in time for the fall semester, JPI operators will find alternate arrangements for affected students-most likely in a hotel like the Holiday Inn on U.S. 1.

Arias said he was cautiously optimistic that construction, which began in March 2005, will be on time. He added that the University is meeting with construction officials twice a week and pressuring the city to obtain the necessary permits.

Arias also said that the project is on its $61 million budget.

The faculty and administration townhouses that will be built next to University Village are still in the pre-design stages.

The original University Village plan, which would have housed around 1,100 students, was proposed in 1992 but shelved after Hurricane Andrew. It took several years for the University to negotiate the project’s details with the UM Neighbors Homeowner’s Association. The Village occupies 7.18 acres of land between Red Road, San Amaro Drive, and Brescia and Corniche avenues.

Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at