This story originally appeared in Student Life September 20, 2012.
When Doug Johnston was an architecture student at Washington University 30 years ago, he rented an apartment two blocks north of the then-shady Delmar Loop for $72 a month.
Standing in Bear's Den behind a scale model of the new off-campus apartments his firm [William Rawn Associates] has planned for the Loop, Johnston said it is exciting to get the chance to come back to rework his old neighborhood.
The public display that included maps, renderings, and models of all the buildings was the first time that the University released plans of the project beyond a tentative rendering made two years ago.
The five new apartment complexes, to be completed in two phases, will house between 550 and 600 people when complete.
Cheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and local government affairs, said the aim is to have about 400 students move in for fall 2014 before tearing down the University Terrace building and beginning phase two of construction.
In addition to housing undergraduates, the new buildings will feature storefronts and 22,000 square feet of commercial space, which the University is currently working to select businesses to fill.
Washington University has spent the past several years looking for ways to expand its off-campus housing options to ensure that it can continue to guarantee undergraduates housing for all four years should students want it, Adelstein said.
"We want to have a more diverse set of offerings for our juniors and seniors," Adelstein said. "We don't have that many things off campus, and everything we have off campus is kind of in the classic model—you know, older."
"That kind of student that wants to be off campus and wants to live in the community will really enjoy this whole experience," she said.
While the Delmar Loop is often celebrated as an invigorated neighborhood—it was voted one of the top streets in America by the American Planning Association in 2007—it has also received some recent press surrounding safety and social concerns on the street. Sometimes termed the "Delmar Divide," the average home value south of the street was $335,000, versus $73,000 to the north, reported a BBC feature this spring.
But Adelstein said that these tensions apply to a different part of Delmar, and that students will be as safe in the new buildings as at other off-campus but University-owned properties.
"There is certainly a different income between south of Delmar and north of Delmar, but that's because south of Delmar is primarily large owner-occupied houses, and north of Delmar is the Parkview Gardens neighborhood, which was designed in the 1910s and 1920s as a multi-family subdivision," she said. "There's about 3,000 people that live in the Parkview Gardens neighborhood and about a third of them are students."
Adelstein said that the community has responded very enthusiastically to the project that should help make the Loop a more continuous strip.
"If you look at the Delmar Loop, and you walk down the Loop, there's a big hole, a big vacant piece of land. It used to be a gas station, then...it boarded up, and the University bought that piece of land several years ago," Adelstein said. "Part of the idea of this project is really knitting together the western part of the Loop and the eastern part of the Loop."
In addition to the architects, University employees, and community officials, a small number of students have also been involved in discussing building plans.
Justin Carroll, associate vice chancellor for students, said that the new apartment buildings should be similarly priced to other off-campus housing options and less expensive than Lopata House.
Similar to other Residential Life housing, the halls will also house residential advisors and possibly a residential college director.
"So far [reception] has been really positive," Carroll said. "The only negatives are people who are juniors and seniors and can't live there."