COLUMBIA — MU has backed off a plan to close Manor House for major renovations and won't be leasing space in an off-campus housing complex after all.
The two plans, which would have affected students who use graduate and family housing, came to light after the collapse of the University Village Apartments walkway in February.
But Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said this week that the university won't move forward with either plan.
Manor House, which was slated to be closed in May 2015 for renovations, will remain open until the university can decide on a long-term use for the building, Minor said.
The closing of Manor House and University Village, which will be demolished after June 30, would have cost a total of 187 graduate and family housing units over the next year.
The off-campus lease was proposed to offset the loss of space once University Village is gone. But the results of a survey sent in April to current residents, and obtained by the Missourian through a Sunshine Law request, showed that students didn't like the idea of being so far from campus. The survey included information about the distance between the two complexes and campus without naming them.
Manor House is an eight-story apartment complex for single graduate students on Hitt Street near the MU Memorial Student Union.
A 2012 Residential Life Master Plan recommended renovating Manor House, and gave two options for the future use of the building.
The first option, referred to as the "Ideal Model" in the plan, would be to convert the building to an undergraduate residence hall, creating 210 undergraduate beds and generating a projected $1,404,380 in revenue a year. The second option would be to renovate the building to increase the number of one-bedroom apartments, generating $516,815 in revenue a year.
The university hasn't decided which option to pursue, and Manor House will stay open until it does. Minor said there are a number of variables that make the decision difficult. After University Village is demolished, there will be less housing for graduate students. At the same time, undergraduate enrollment continues to rise.
Minor said that Manor House, with its Hitt Street location, has always been considered a "keeper" for the university.
“I have to believe that we’ll be doing something with the facility in the near future," he said. "But our sense is to give the residents as much use of the facility as we can until we make that decision."
Residential Life verbally informed residents as they signed new contracts that Manor House would likely remain open past the May 2015 closing date.
Some of the necessary renovations already have been completed, and others can be done while residents are still in the building.
"Many of the things that were essential for what they call a building envelope or from a safety point of view, we had already done or were in the process of addressing, so we'll certainly continue those," Minor said.
The master plan identified a number of needed upgrades and repairs for Manor House:
- new windows and elevators
- better ventilation
- improvements in plumbing
- "major electrical service upgrades"
- construction of a new exit stair to eliminate a "dead-end corridor condition" or "major reconfiguration of each floor to meet life safety requirements"
A new roof, fire alarm system and elevators were installed in 2003, 2007 and 2011, respectively, Minor said. Renovations to plumbing were in progress, and there are plans to replace the original single-pane windows with more energy-efficient ones.
Those renovations can be done with residents still in the building, Minor said.
As for the dead-end corridor mentioned in the 2012 master plan, Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer of the Columbia Fire Department said that, generally speaking, a building doesn't need to be updated as long as it met code when it was built, though there are some minimum requirements for creating an emergency exit route and other safety features.
However, when a building undergoes significant changes, it might trigger new code requirements, Frazier said.
That would be the case if the university chooses to renovate the building, Minor said. Bringing it up to code would require a second stairwell and would mean the loss of apartments.
The university is not under the fire department's jurisdiction, but Minor said MU considers it good practice to meet the city fire code.
Students not interested in off-campus lease
MU was considering leasing space in an off-campus apartment complex to offer more housing options for its graduate students after the loss of University Village, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The results of the survey sent to residents of university-owned graduate housing in April showed that about 40 residents were interested in one of the proposed scenarios, Minor said. But 60 or 70 would have been required for the lease to be feasible. Without being able to guarantee the private landlord 100 percent occupancy, the lease would have been a financial risk, he said.
Residential Life recommended to Cathy Scroggs, MU's vice chancellor of student affairs, in May that the university not proceed with the plan, and she agreed, Minor said.
Minor said the locations that MU had been considering might still be desirable for graduate students.
"Dionne George and her staff in the off-campus student services offices know where they are and can refer (students to the apartments)," he said.
The department was able to accommodate all the residents of University Village who wanted to continue living in university-owned housing, Minor said. After that, there were still about 100 spaces left for incoming students between Manor House and Tara Apartments, another complex for graduate students.
MU spokesman Christian Basi said in an email in April that there were about 150 current and incoming graduate students who had requested housing.
Minor said historically, more students have requested graduate and family housing than Residential Life has been able to accommodate. He said he won't know until closer to fall if those numbers will be significantly higher this year because of the loss of 125 units at University Village.
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