Since the University Courtyard Apartments officially came under the University of Delaware’s ownership last month, many of the changes have been “behind the walls,” said Michele Kane, senior associate director of residence life and housing.
The university gained access to the apartment complex off Delaware Avenue in July, after rankling city officials when the university indicated its intentions about a year ago.
The University Courtyard Apartments, which holds 880 beds, are intended to replace the 17-story Christiana Towers, which closed last spring, creating a loss of 1,250 beds.
When building the Courtyard complex in 1999, a private developer used bond funding from a nonprofit with the stipulation that the complex would be deeded to the university in 30 years after the bonds are paid off.
However, university officials said the university had the option of acquiring the property early. When the university made the decision last year, city officials raised concerns over the loss in tax revenue.
“That is something that is near and dear to me because I was there when that was approved and I supported that idea and concept,” Mayor Jerry Clifton said at the time. “What’s disconcerting about this in my mind is that they want to take it off the tax rolls next year and, just over the 10 year period by itself, that means a loss of about $770,000 over the 10 year period. $77,000 a year.”
During the transition in ownership, Kane said that 65 tenants stayed on.
“We do know that this past year, we received a record number of applications and we have a hunch that that was in part due to having University Courtyard Apartments in our inventory,” she said.
Since acquiring the property, Kane said that changes have encompassed safety and security, like additional cameras being added, sprinkler heads being cleaned or replaced, new fire doors, and bringing the apartment complex online with UD cable and internet service.
Under private ownership, the complex came with amenities many other on-campus dorms lack – like a pool, fitness center and parking – and the university is grappling with how to maintain those elements.
The gym equipment was removed from the fitness center, Kane said, and the university is undecided on whether to maintain the area as a gym. Officials are still deciding what to do with the pool, though it remained open this summer.
The complex will now be staffed by UD’s residence life personnel. Kane said the previous Courtyard employees were offered an opportunity to interview, but all declined the offer.
Kane said that the university tried to make sure it was well known to students that the property would become on-campus housing in the fall.
“One, it means that we will staff and provide engagement opportunities in there, the same way that we would in any of our on-campus properties, and that’s something that we know our students and their families value,” she said. “And the other is also a financial piece for students. When students live on campus, sometimes their financial aid packages are different than if they live off campus in a more beneficial way for them.”
The parking lot, which was previously free for tenants, is now marked as a gray lot, which requires a parking permit from the university. That permit costs between $300-$460 annually and will be available to students who live there, as well as UD employees. Members of the public can also use a parking app to pay for parking there by the hour.