The 402-bed residence hall proposed to be built at the historic Villa Park Orchards Association Packing House has received its final city approval. Dean of Students Jerry Price said that the project is set to be completed by the fall of 2019 or 2020.
The new residence hall, which is less than one block from the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, is part of an ongoing effort to decrease the number of students living off campus. Last September, President Daniele Struppa told The Panther that he hopes to eventually require all underclassmen to live in university-owned housing.
“The more students we house on campus, the less they’re renting in the neighborhood, which is what the neighborhood likes,” Price said. “It’s an aspiration, but now it’s getting closer to a necessity.”
The newly-approved housing project comes one semester after about 100 sophomores and upperclassmen were unable to secure on-campus housing in spring 2017. Price said that Chapman has been able to accommodate all students who want to live on campus in the past up until this year.
Tiffany Vallejo, a sophomore international student, was one of the students who had an issue not only securing on campus housing, but finding an affordable option.
“I got into Sandhu (Residence Center), but I didn’t have the money to pay it, and that was stressful,” said Vallejo, a chemistry major who ended up being placed in Harris Hall. “There was a point where I thought I wasn’t going to come back (to Chapman) because my parents couldn’t afford it, and if I don’t have a space to live here, where do I go?”
This semester, the university welcomed 1,724 new freshmen, its largest incoming class to date.
“There’s a lot of other space crunch needs besides housing,” Price said. “Housing is just one of them. Up until this year for the past five years, ever since we bought Panther Village, we’ve not really had a housing crunch. This year, we were very, very tight. If we have a similar class next year, then to say we’ll be able to accommodate everybody will no longer probably be accurate.”
Orange City Councilman Mike Alvarez thinks the new housing development will provide relief to residents of Old Towne Orange.
“There are always going to be students in the neighborhood, but I think if we reach a balance where there’s more on campus than off, I think more of the community will be happy with that,” Alvarez said. “It’s just a matter of getting the new students to kind of realize that when they’re living off campus, we need them to be a little bit more aware of disturbing the neighborhood.”
Kris Olsen, the vice president of campus planning and operations, wrote in an email to The Panther that the project is both a development and a restoration. This entails the preservation of the historic citrus packing plant, as well as the construction of a new, freestanding residence hall on the same site.
Price said that the new residence hall is being modeled off of the Sandhu Residence Center’s suite-style dormitories. He anticipates that the residence hall will mainly house sophomore students.
Chapman has other plans to increase university-sanctioned student housing in the next few years.
Last year, Chapman purchased property near Panther Village for $6.5 million, after winning an auction by the city of Orange, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Harold Hewitt told The Panther last semester.