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Provo board approves new BYU Deseret Towers dorms

Rendering of the new BYU student housing development that will replace the old Deseret Towers along 900 East in Provo.
Rendering of the new BYU student housing development that will replace the old Deseret Towers along 900 East in Provo.

PROVO — As early as the fall semester of 2011, some 744 students could be living in new, apartment-style housing units on the BYU campus.

The Provo Planning Commission on Wednesday night approved a university plan to build four new 35-unit dormitories on the former site of Deseret Towers in the northwest area of the campus. The four-story buildings, which will house 210 students each, will feature pitched roofs, marking a departure from existing flat-roofed student housing.

David Armond, neighborhood chairman for Provo's Wasatch Neighborhood, which borders the site, said neighbors are pleased with the look of the buildings, although he did express concerns about parking.

"Having any building on BYU that has a pointed roof is a huge improvement in design," Armond said.

Ray Bernier, director of planning at BYU, told commissioners that the university was looking for a change.

"We wanted to get more of an academic-residential feel to these facilities," Bernier said.

He said the university plans to start building in May and hopes to complete the project in 14 months.

While the new dorms will bring students back to the campus, the units will hold fewer than half of the 1,848 students who lived in Deseret Towers. And the apartment-style rooms, with kitchens and two- and three-bedroom units, will mean students living in the dorms will be responsible for their own meals.

"We felt that the density of Deseret Towers would be a mistake and wanted to decrease the overall density we had in this area," Bernier said.

The Morris Center, which had served as a cafeteria for Deseret Towers, will become office space year round and provide meals only for the university's summer programs.

Bernier also said plans remain uncertain for Wymount Terrace, which had been transformed from married to single housing when Deseret Towers were torn down.

The plan calls for eliminating 1430 North, a BYU-owned road, and building a lane south of the existing road to provide access for emergency and service vehicles.

"We wanted to limit access to this zone and turn this into a pedestrian-friendly area," Bernier said.

Timothy Thomas, a partner in the Salt Lake City firm Architectural Nexus, told commissioners the buildings are designed to house students for 50 years.

Armond said the neighborhood was concerned that the new student housing would eliminate parking options for students in the area, forcing them onto city streets, even though streets in the area have a two-hour parking limit.

Bernier said BYU has adequate parking nearby for employees and will be providing 309 nearby parking stalls for students living ?in the new dorms — a .42 parking ratio, which is higher than other on-campus student housing.

"We will provide sufficient parking on campus for students who will live in this area," he said.