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Y. student village proposed

141 apartments would be built south of campus

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Architectural rendering of the proposed student village calls for five-story apartment buildings, with student parking and other facilities on the ground floor.

Architectural rendering of the proposed student village calls for five-story apartment buildings, with student parking and other facilities on the ground floor.

Rendering courtesy of Brigham Young University

PROVO — Brigham Young University delivered a proposal to Provo last week for a unique, five-story mixed-use student village on a block of 800 North.

If built, the 141 new apartments probably wouldn't immediately add to BYU's on-campus housing capacity. Instead, they would provide rooms for students displaced during an anticipated project to renovate or replace the aging Deseret Towers and Heritage Halls, administrative vice president Brad Farnsworth said.

The idea is still in the planning stages.

"This is a proposed plan," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "It has not been approved by the Board of Trustees. We have received approval from the board to go to this point, to seek feedback from the city and the neighborhoods."

For example, the proposal will be shared next week at a meeting with neighbors in the Joaquin area just south of campus.

Since there is no approval from the board or the city, no timeline is in place, Farnsworth said.

The proposed complex of four buildings would be located between 400 and 500 East, directly across from the duck ponds and the bottom of the stairs from upper campus. A total of 754 single students would live in two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments in the four stories above a ground-level parking garage, said Warren Jones, director of facilities planning.

The ground level also would include a number of student services. For example, there might be a copy center, a BYU Bookstore annex, an extension of BYU Dining Services or even counseling or health services.

Above that first level, four stories of apartments would rise above a central, grass commons area.

BYU planners and Architectural Nexus, the firm that helped the university renovate the Helaman Halls apartments, were thorough about the plan without completing it. They wanted to provide significant information while providing room to incorporate feedback.

One specific issue that will require refinement is the parking ratio. The proposal calls for 165 parking stalls on the block for 754 residents. However, BYU owns a parking lot on an adjacent block and another one a block from the site.

"We're going to work with the city to determine what the proper ratio should be," Jenkins said.

BYU officials are trying to determine what to do with the iconic Deseret Towers, built in the early 1960s, and Heritage Halls, completed in the early 1950s. The maintenance costs for the on-campus singles apartments have risen to a point where BYU will soon have to decide whether to remodel or replace the facilities, Farnsworth said.

Deseret Towers and Heritage also lack sufficient electrical outlets, with just two or three per room.

"The electronic needs of the students exceed the capability," said Julie Franklin, director of residence life. "There's no place to plug in your hair dryer when you already have a computer, printer, CD player and alarm clock in the outlets."

A BYU committee is developing a 10-year housing master plan. Tearing down and replacing Deseret Towers and Heritage is one possibility, but BYU effectively renovated Helaman Halls without demolishing the structures. Until the board approves a plan, nothing is final.

"Right now," Farnsworth said, "all our options are open."

The new apartments on 800 North would include kitchens. No rent prices have been set, Franklin said. University planners also haven't decided how to split the four buildings between men's and women's housing. BYU policy prohibits coed dwellings.

The proposal includes making 500 East a one-way street between 700 and 800 North. BYU also suggested planting trees in the median of 800 North to help slow traffic.

The proposal was provided to the city in the form of a schematic project redevelopment option, which allows developers to float ideas without incorporating costly engineering. City staff and City Council members then can indicate whether they are comfortable with concepts, said Jan Yeckes, Provo's assistant director of community development.

Provo Mayor Lewis Billings praised BYU's proposal, which dovetails with the city's efforts to prod developers into creating walkable communities in the three blocks south of campus.

"The city tried to set up parameters and guidelines to guide building in that area," he said. "BYU has done an exceptional job in planning and a good job living up to those guidelines. They're doing what they're doing to a very high quality of standards. That serves them well, and it serves the interests of the city.

"It would be a very liveable, functional, convenient, desirable student village."

E-mail: twalch@desnews.com