Towson University recently began design on a pair of student apartment buildings in the campus' West Village area and plans to start construction late next year, said Deb Moriarty, vice president for student affairs.
Phases III and IV of the West Village housing plans include one 300-bed and one 400-bed apartment building, which will feature four single bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a living area in each unit.
"There are a number of students, particularly transfer students, we've never been able to accommodate the housing demands for," Moriarty said. "We feel like we've gotten to the point that we can accommodate as many first-year students that want housing. The plan all along was to build housing that could accommodate a slightly older population — both transfer students and juniors and seniors — who want to stay on campus a little longer."
The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $5.7 million contract for Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore for engineering and architectural services at the board's Nov. 20 meeting, according to the minutes from that meeting.
Moriarty said Phases III and IV initially were meant to be built separately but were later combined to take advantage of cost-saving efficiencies in planning and construction that simultaneous construction provided. Construction is slated for completion in fall 2016, she said.
The university's 2009 Master Plan organizes the campus into three separate precincts: the Academic Precinct, the West Village precinct and the Athletics precinct. The West Village precinct, which is west of Osler Drive and south of Towsontown Boulevard, was tabbed in the report as prime for development.
Phase I of the West Village plans included the Tubman House and Paca House, which opened in 2008 with a total of 668 new beds. Phase II, which opened in 2011 with Barton House and Douglass House, added around 650 beds, Moriarty said.
A fifth phase is planned for the West Village precinct, although there are no construction plans for that as yet. When all five residential phases in West Village are complete, that precinct will include 3,000 new beds and more than 2,000 parking spaces, according to the university's master plan.
However, some of the existing residential buildings will be closed for renovation once Phases III and IV are completed, which means the full gain of beds will not be evident for several years after that.
"It's really going to be a couple of years before we realize the full number," Moriarty said.
She cautioned, however, that putting more beds on campus, a common refrain for community groups aiming to get student renters out of their neighborhoods, will not be a cure for that.
"I do think that people think if we build more on campus, there will be less in the neighborhood," Moriarty said. "To some extent, I think that's true. On the other hand, I think many juniors and seniors, even if we could accommodate them on campus … want the flexibility to live off campus."
More than 4,900 students now live on campus, Moriarty said. According to the university's website, 18,779 undergraduate students are enrolled for the fall 2013 semester. While some are commuters who live nearby, many upperclassmen choose to live in off-campus apartments or rental houses in residential communities near the university.
"There will constantly need to be a balance between what we can provide on campus and what students want off-campus," Moriarty said. "The demand is so high for that kind of housing, it really doesn't have anything to do with this. I just think (the new construction) will be a great option for students if and when it's built."