Towson to start 2 new dorms

In the Towson area, where community leaders sometimes complain about unruly college students living in their neighborhoods, the university has come up with a place on campus to house a new influx of undergraduates.

The first phase of Towson University's new West Village is made up of two dormitories with a total of 670 beds on university grounds. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for today.

"We're happy to see they're adding housing," said Mike Ertel, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, an umbrella organization of neighborhood groups and homeowners associations.

But, he said, "They need a lot more."

The West Village dorms will be the first new on-campus student housing since 2000. The first students would live there beginning in August 2008.

Plans call for 10 housing buildings - some apartments, some suite-style dorms - to be built eventually on more than 60 acres near Towsontown Boulevard and Osler Drive.

By 2016, about 3,000 students would be living in the village, said Jack Nye II, director of facilities planning at the university. Every two years, two new buildings at three to five stories each would be completed as part of the $380 million West Village project, he said.

By the fall of 2010, a commons building, which would include dining, recreational and medical facilities, will be complete, according to the plans. Between 2010 and 2014, a multi-story parking structure will be added.

The first phase - a $36 million project - is being developed and will be managed by Capstone Properties, the company that built Towson University's Millennium Hall, which opened in 2000.

The first two dorms will house freshmen and some sophomores, according to campus officials.

Currently, the campus has about 13,539 full-time undergraduate students and about 3,400 beds available in 12 campus dorms, said Carol Dunsworth, a university spokeswoman.

By 2012, the university projects an enrollment of about 13,850 full-time undergraduate students, a 13 percent increase from the decade before.

Some students are now assigned to rooms that were designed for two people but are shared by three. Others are offered discounted temporary rooms created in former study lounges and recreation rooms.

Students living off campus have been a source of tension between the university and neighborhood groups. Two years ago, community leaders were upset by a proposal to build a 600-bed, off-campus dormitory as part of a restaurant and retail development near the York Road traffic circle. The university eventually rejected the plan.

Noise, trash and disruptive behavior by college students only gets worse when there's not enough student housing and they're forced to live off campus, according to Ertel and other neighborhood activists.

"It's destroying some neighborhoods," Ertel said.

The most recent housing built for area college students, University Village, opened in 2002 on the grounds of Sheppard Pratt Healthcare. Developed and managed by American Campus Communities, the complex features saunas, tanning beds, a heated pool and a gym.

The 615 residents there - students from Towson University and other nearby colleges -have private bedrooms and share living rooms and kitchens, with rents that range from $635 to $875 per month.

The 420 students at Millennium Hall have private bedrooms in the four-person furnished apartments. The cost is $7,277 for the academic year, August through May. The cost to live in traditional dorms and apartments on the campus, operated by the university, is less than $6,000 for the academic year.

In the new West Village dorms, two students will share the rooms, each with a private bath. Most floors will be equipped with three study lounges.

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