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  January 29, 2001

New-Style Housing Proves Popular With Students

UConn students are hungry for new styles of housing. Hungrier, in fact, than officials at Capstone Development Corp. have ever seen.

"It was a gold rush," said James Fielder, president of on-campus management for Capstone, the developers currently building the new Hilltop apartment complex.

In fact, Fielder said UConn and Capstone officials began wait-listing undergraduates barely 16 hours after they began taking applications from students interested in living in the 13-building complex when it opens in August. Capstone's previous best, he said, was 16 days.

The apartment-style residences, featuring kitchens, living areas and a bedroom for each occupant, reflect the University's efforts to offer students a range of housing options, from traditional dormitory-style rooms, to suites and apartments. Students opting to live in the Hilltop apartments will pay a slightly higher monthly rent for the added conveniences. The complex and other residence halls being constructed also will help accommodate the increasing numbers of students choosing to attend UConn.

Two hundred of the beds in the apartment complex, Fielder said, are reserved for graduate students, who can apply beginning in February. If those slots are not filled, wait-listed undergraduates will be offered the vacant apartments.

The outpouring of response to the Hilltop apartments could spike the interest of developers who are currently weighing proposals to build another complex, off North Hillside Road, on 47 acres previously earmarked for a technology park. That 1,000-bed complex, scheduled to open by August 2002, will be designed, built and managed by a private developer, who will lease the land from the University. Although the complex will be privately owned and operated, UConn police and fire officials will be responsible for public safety at the site, and the University's Student Conduct Code will apply to students living there.

Larry Schilling, university architect, said a "large number" of development companies attended a presentation on the project earlier this month, and he anticipates several bids will be submitted by the Feb. 26 bidding deadline.

Schilling says all costs associated with building the complex will be borne by the development company, which will then collect rent from students.

Meanwhile, Schilling says, workers are making progress on another project in the Hilltop area: new residence halls connected to Hilltop dormitories. Sixty-two of the approximately 110 rooms are expected to be open in time to accommodate students coming to campus in August, and the remaining rooms will open by January 2002, he says.

Rooms in the Hilltop residence halls will be designed as suites, similar to the rooms in South Campus. The two-bedroom suites will include a shared bathroom. Air conditioning and study areas are included in the project.

Students living in the Hilltop apartment complex will have their own rooms. Each apartment also features a living room, bathroom, and kitchen, all factors that officials believe contribute to their appeal. But despite the rush of applicants on Monday, Fielder, the Capstone representative, said the process was efficient and smooth.

"I can't say enough about the UConn staff," he said. "They moved the students and their parents through the process smoothly and never lost their composure. Everyone involved, including parents and their children, appreciated their effort."

Due to open in August, five of the 13 buildings have already been completely framed, awaiting only brickwork and shingles, and interior work. Construction has begun on several others.

Richard Veilleux