Proposal for Campus Housing for Students in the Works

by Liz O’Donnell
The most recent proposed site plan for  the student housing development. Plans provided by Mercer Reality Partners

The most recent proposed site plan for
the student housing development.
Plans provided by Mercer Reality Partners.

A new development proposal would provide UConn Law students with a campus housing option for the 2015-16 school year.

Project Developer Dwight Merriam, an adjunct professor at UConn Law and Partner at Robinson & Cole, LLC announced the project this past Spring, after deciding that it would best fit the needs for the law school community.

“I thought UConn Law School in particular would be benefitted in its position in attracting and maintaining top talent to provide a walk-able community integrated with its campus,” he said.

Merriam credited his co-developer, Garrett Heher, a Principal with Mercer Realty Partners as instrumental in turning the idea into reality.

“I’m very lucky to [work with] Gary who has a successful career in the development of residential real estate and other projects,” he said. “He knows how to make this happen better than anybody else, in fact, I had a deal with another developer to buy this site to do virtually the same project and the other developer was incapable of puling together all the pieces to make it happen.”

Merriam said he anticipates the project will have its initial approvals completed by this fall and would potentially have its first housing opened by September, 2015.

The proposed development includes buildings along Elizabeth Street and Asylum Street on the North side of campus. The housing is projected to include just over 200 units, available principally for students at UConn Law. Vacancies will likely be offered to doctors in residence at St. Francis Hospital or other graduate students residing in the area.

“Our concept [for an apartment] is a studio with a full kitchen at 380 square feet or so,” Merriam said. “There will also be a fitness center and full time security.”

Merriam and Heher met with students, faculty, and staff on April 10 to provide the law school population with information about the project and ask for feedback.

Among the ideas generated from students, Merriam said they would try to build into the development a common study room, which he did not initially realize students would desire.

“It appears that many people don’t want to necessarily study where they live and may want to have a casual social interaction that occurs when studying in a common place, so we’re going to do that,” he said. “There’s also an interest in having the apartments fully furnished and to have all the utilities included in them.”

The decision whether to fully furnish the apartments and their construction will influence the price point at which potential occupants may secure rents.

“Some students said they really wanted to have a separate bedroom, but the problem with that is that when size increases, rents have to increase,” said Merriam.

In addition, Merriam said students also expressed an interest in having a meeting place where residents can socialize, with a kitchen where they can prepare and share meals.

Aside from appealing to the needs of the law school community, Merriam said he also wants to be active, collaborative partners with the surrounding community.

“We want them to fully embrace our concept and the project and I believe we’re on the road to having that be the case,” he said.

A survey has been sent to members of the UConn Law community asking them for additional feedback about the proposed project. Merriam said he will review and incorporate the results into the project.