The 400 and 500 courts have been demolished in the University of Utah student and family residences in the West Village.
“They certainly would have survived their lives to the extent that they were able to provide housing suitable for students and up to university standards,” said PR and communications specialist Wes Mangum.
Tenants were notified in advance that the project was imminent.
“We gave them seven months’ notice. We have closed and demolished 104 apartments from the 1100s and us moved everyone who needed a unit the village to another apartment,” said Auxillary Services Director Jennifer Reed.
The phased closures are expected to continue over the next eight years or until the project is completed.
“We can’t close 900 apartments at once,” Reed said. “There are currently no 900 apartments on the market that can accommodate these people. We try to take students into account and do this in phases.”
The reconstruction of the villages has been considered for years.
“We have some buildings built in 1960 and 61 and some in 1970 and 71, so we’re looking at 60 years buildings that have not had every major renovation since they were put in the ground,” Reed said.
According to Reed, after seeing increasing failures in the courts over the past five years, there has been more motivation to rebuild.
“We are responding to daily reactive maintenance related to plumbing and electricity,” says Reed. “We regularly have water pipe breaks here and residents have to let their water flow for a long time to collect the orange sludge that comes through the old pipes.”
In addition to daily blockages in the plumbing, people also regularly tripped over the circuit breakers.
“We don’t have the right tension on the village,” Reed said. “If someone in an apartment is using a microwave and iron and someone might try to turn on the dryer, the power goes out.”
The university tries to keep the rent reasonable for the conditions of the property.
“We’ve tried to keep rents low, well below market,” Reed said. “In order not to pay too much for a product that does not meet the market standards.”
The U considered a public-private partnership, where the university partners with a private investor to complete the project, but ultimately decided to self-finance and operate the project itself.
As a result, the university has applied for a guarantee from the legislature.
“We went to the legislature last spring to get approval for a bond for about $126 million and we are currently in the midst of an RFP with DFCM,” Reed said.
Magnum said they will have their design and construction team selected by August 2021.
With the reconstruction, the U is moving away from the open lawn and the park-like atmospheres.
“It reached a point where they had just reached the end of their lives and it would make more sense to build new housing projects that offered better amenities and higher density to match the growing student population and to stay on this site that is so essential is for campus,” says Mangum.
Reed said all new facilities will comply with the seismic code because that’s one of the biggest risks.
“Our goal is not to demolishing the medical towers until a new graduate building is built,” Reed said.
The West Village is part of a large phased project that includes East Village and Medical Plaza. Construction on the West Village is expected to start in the fall of 2021 and finish in the fall of 2023.
According to Mangum, the village housing project aligns with the university’s goal of student success.
“To provide on-campus students the opportunity to get an education, experience campus life and make an impact in our community, our state and the global community going forward,” Mangum said. “We are excited to be part of that commitment to student excellence.”