MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The University of Memphis is moving forward to acquire the Gather on Southern apartments that are adjacent to the campus thanks to a unanimous Board of Trustees vote on Tuesday.
Now the motion, valuing the property at $28 million and paid over a 30-year period, will go before the State Building Commission for approval and then again to the U of M Board of Trustees.
The property would be bought by a third-party from the current owner, and after 30 years, the university would acquire the land.
The university's goal is to incorporate the apartment complex into the school's student housing. President M. David Rudd said the apartment style of the Gather better suits what he sees students looking for in housing.
"Apartment-style living is preferable for students," Rudd said. "Most of what we have available is dorm-style living, and it's just not attractive to students."
Rudd said the process started about four months ago, and they wanted to start the process now because he thinks students are better off in on-campus housing rather than their own apartments.
"Students that live in university property do dramatically better at the university for a lot of different reasons," Rudd said. "Their retention rates are higher. Their completion rates are higher."
Rudd said the intrigue to them in the Gather is that acquiring property for dorms is "dramatically" cheaper than building new housing property.
Some residents voiced safety concerns after three gun incidents were reported in a five-day stretch in January. Debbi Wood, a parent of a Gather resident, was at the board meeting to make sure her concerns are known and to see what will happen to her daughter's apartment complex in the future.
The Gather has gated parking spots for residents, but not enough for all residents, so some have to park in general campus parking or on the street.
Wood said only three weeks after moving into the complex last fall, her daughter's roommate was robbed at gunpoint while walking to her car. She said she is scared thinking about the possibility of it happening again.
"All you can do is just pray," Wood said.
She also said current management, Cardinal Group Management, did not do much to alert residents that this had happened just outside their apartment. She asked them to let residents know, but they said it was against rules to disseminate that information.
"So I went door-to-door, and I told students, 'Are you aware that there was a robbery that took place right outside your window,'" Wood said. "Many of them didn't know. They were horrified."
She said she appreciates the efforts taken by the university to look after the safety of students, and she is glad to know security is being taken into account during this transaction.
It is not yet known how the transaction would look for current residents. Rudd and Wood both said they see students not wanting to live in university housing and instead wanting to live on their own.
"My student does not want to live in a dorm," Wood said. "She wants to live in an apartment and have a cat or whatever she feels like doing."
Right now, the university has just over 2,000 beds. This would add 435 more if the Gather of Southern stays the style of apartments it is now.