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Proposals sought to modernize Orchard Downs

Jeff Unger, News Bureau


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois is seeking proposals from consultants with experience in private-public partnerships to conduct an analysis of how to modernize family and graduate housing at the Orchard Downs housing complex in Urbana.

Orchard Downs comprises 780 apartments on 160 acres southwest of Race Street and Florida Avenue. About 1,500 people – graduate students and their families – occupy one- and two-bedroom apartments on the site. The apartments, built in the 1950s and 1960s, lack amenities such as air conditioning, laundry connections and carpeting.

“The intent is to hire a consultant with extensive expertise and experience to perform an in-depth analysis of the feasibility of a long-term non-subordinated ground lease with one or more private developers to renovate or replace Orchard Downs Family and Graduate Apartment Housing and create mixed-use housing in this neighborhood, said Patricia Askew, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“Modern, affordable facilities for family and graduate housing are vital if the university is to attract, retain and compete with our peer institutions for graduate students. It is our intention to keep rental rates affordable, and, if possible, generate income for strategic priorities,” she said.

“The goal is that the consulting firm selected will identify options for the university to consider, research many technical issues, document market demand for various housing types, provide detailed analysis of financing options with income streams and tax revenues, and address legal constraints. A central part of the process will be a structured consultation with key stakeholders.”

The campus hopes that by January it will have chosen the consulting firm to conduct this confidential study, and the chosen firm is expected to conclude the study in May 2004. Any consultant hired would be ineligible to serve as a future developer of the site or from having ownership interest in the company that may develop it.

Planners also will look at options for developing the unoccupied land by adding housing, commercial ventures, or both.

“I want to assure the residents of Orchard Downs that the university will continue to provide housing for them throughout the entire planning and development process,” Askew said.