Private developer proposes student housing at historic site

In an effort to alleviate university housing issues, real estate developers have proposed a private project to build student housing at the site of the historic Killefer School on Lemon Street near the Center for Global Education.

Over the last year, Orange residents and members from neighborhood groups have called for more on-campus housing to mitigate and confine noise levels. Some neighbors have said that this would solve many of the problems between Chapman and the city.

However, the Killefer School, which will be renamed Killefer Square, is on the National Register of Historic Places, causing some opposition from Orange residents.

“The school is on the National Register of Historic Places and cannot be demolished,” said Sandy Quinn, president of the Old Towne Preservation Association. “Opposition includes those who feel the proposed apartments eclipse the landmark building and its significance as an important part of Orange history and early culture.”

The historic Killefer school is located at 541 N. Lemon Street. Photo by Chloe Arrouye

The historic Killefer school is located at 541 N. Lemon Street. Photo by Bonnie Cash

History of the Killefer School
In 1946, the Killefer School became the first school in the Cypress barrio – an Orange neighborhood – to be desegregated, according to the city of Orange. The school has remained empty for years.

Last year, Quinn told The Panther that if Chapman was going to continue any part of its expansion plan, it should be adding more housing.

“I think if you are going to increase student enrollment, you have to find places for them to live, as well,” Quinn told The Panther in September, 2015. Now, he says that the Old Towne Preservation Association supports new housing only if it occurs on property owned by Chapman that is “appropriate for housing.”

The Killefer School was untouched for years prior to its purchase, said Doug DeCinces, one of the real estate developers.

At first, the developers had plans to demolish the building, but they were unable to continue because the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“For 12 years, there was no interest in the building. Three months after we entered escrow, it became a historic site,” DeCinces said.

Future plans
Although the city has not officially approved the project, the developers anticipate that construction will be completed by fall 2019.

The National Register of Historic Places database does not show the Killefer School as being a historic site yet.

According to DeCinces, there will be about 70 to 80 living units, but the structure of the original building will remain intact.

“We are answering all the concerns for the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards,” DeCinces said. “It will be preserved as it’s supposed to be.”

President’s partying perspective
President Daniele Struppa believes adding more housing will address concerns neighbors have about students who are living off campus and creating noise. His goal is to require all freshmen and sophomores to live in university-sanctioned housing.

“I would say (that students don’t party as much) probably after a couple of years,” he said. “We all mature, so when you arrive at the very first beginning, it’s the first freedom. You’re away from your parents, with people one or two years older that egg you on. It’s new freedom, and it’s difficult to manage. After a couple years, people kind of absorb (the freedom) and they realize that they can be free without being wild.”

However, some students disagree with Struppa’s assertion that most upperclassmen tend to party less.

“There are definitely people I know who, as they’ve gotten older, say that they’re not going to party anymore, but I also have friends who still want to go out and party every weekend so it’s definitely dependent on the person and you can’t generalize it,” said Marissa Navarro, a junior creative producing major.

Financial aid and private housing
Because Killefer Square is a private project, financial aid will likely not be available, according to Struppa.

Kiersten Vannest, a junior film production major, said that housing not covered by financial aid provides an unfair advantage to students who can afford it.

“As a student whose single parent works two full-time jobs seven days a week, and who works two jobs as well while taking a full 18 credit course load, and still needs to rely most heavily on financial aid, I am opposed to housing that would not accept financial aid as a form of payment,” Vannest said.

The developers’ spokesperson, David Cordero, said that there has not yet been a conversation for alternative fundings for payment and rent, such as financial aid.

Catch up on everything you need to know about the university-neighborhood conflict here.


  • Orange residents say we need more housing and to keep loud students away from residential areas and when a good spot comes up, they say no, its historic even though its abandoned and no one goes there. Man these Orange residents absolutely suck. I hope Chapman gets to 20k students and makes life a living hell for these entitled “residents”

  • Students should know that the person hired to “push through” this massive development in the middle of a neighborhood is the same person that started the anti-student Neighbors Say No group and convinced City Council to pass the new noise ordinance. First he wants to make us all criminals and now he wants to profit off of us. Students should Say No.

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