New Apartments Offer College Students An Urban Alternative
December 11, 2006
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
James Bi has to figure out how to break his lease.
He's a University of Hartford junior whose friends had tried to persuade him to move out of his single, off-campus apartment and share a new, three-story townhouse in downtown's soon-to-be newest apartments - the Temple Street apartments at the old Sage-Allen building.
But he had to see it for himself. On Thursday night, at an open house for university students, he did.
"I'm on my own, I want to start my own living," said Bi, 20.
"Now I have to talk to my parents. I'll talk to everyone when I get back. This is amazing."
In a partnership between the university - which has more students who need beds than beds to offer - and the project's developers, a minimum of 136 students will eventually call downtown Hartford home. The project is still under construction, but the first students will begin moving in come January. The developers want to rent as many units as they can for next semester before the students leave for their holiday break between semesters.
A neighboring, 78-unit market-rate apartment tower that has the Sage-Allen façade in its center will be ready for occupancy in January, too. The parking garage with more than 340 spaces will be open next week, a new bank branch has just opened, and the still-unnamed restaurant is set to go, say developers Marc Levine and Philip Schonberger.
It has not been the easiest of projects to develop. The challenge of building downtown and rising construction costs have brought the project in months behind schedule and roughly $1 million over its $53 million budget.
But it's one project that, when complete, will bring university students to live in the land of offices, high-end high-rises and downtown hope.
The new townhouses are in a familiar place - between Main and Market Streets, where the bulk of the Sage-Allen department store once rested. In three curved wings of three-story buildings, the units make an effort to bring street-front city living to a tucked-away spot.
One kitchen, four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms on three floors awaited students as they walked through an open house Thursday night. Inside the complex's only finished unit, boxes of college comfort food - Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Cap'n Crunch - sat as welcome mats on dining tables and kitchen counters.
Students came in individually and in groups. The basic chairs and tables are included. So are the desks and the dressers and the beds. But the biggest plus for the students was a hidden one.
"Open the closet, that's the best part," said the property manager's tour guide, standing in the second-floor hallway with four women who were looking to move in.
"Aw, yeah," said one of the women, as the door opened to reveal the magic. "Oh, baby. That's awesome."
The washer and dryer stacked combo.
Everyone loved the washer and dryer stacked combo.
Brian Reilly and three of his friends want to move in, too. He goes downtown for the bar scene but not much else. But to live there would be a different thing entirely.
"Once you'd be here all the time, you'd find the places you really like," Reilly said. "Everything is right where we are, and we don't have to drive all the way to the mall."
But that's not all that being downtown offers.
"Another great thing about being off campus is not being bothered by the underclassmen trying to throw parties and be underclassmen," Reilly said.
"It's time to grow up," he said. "I had my fun on campus. And now I'm ready to move on."
That's what university President Walter Harrison was counting on, he said. "A chance to live with one foot in the real world and one foot in the college experience," he said. "I'm excited about the whole idea."
So is Bi.
"I was thinking about maybe transferring sometime, but a lot of things come into play," Bi said. "Like this new living area. That may be one of the things that sways me."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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