Nina Huffer | Collegian

Off campus college students can look forward to more upscale housing availabilities starting next year.

As a part of the College Park housing initiative, Hillsdale College trustee and Michigan builder Thomas Duke has taken it upon himself to build and fund a townhouse complex on the corner of West and College streets.

Duke said he wants to provide more modern off-campus housing for students and friends of the college.

“I was disappointed with the housing on the south side of campus,” he said. “Students deserve better based on the recent trend of upscale housing in college towns across the country. I want to build something walkable and with an upscale experience.”

According to Duke, there will be six townhouses in the new complex. Four will fit eight students and two will fit five students. Every bedroom will be furnished. Additionally, each bedroom will have private bathrooms. Apartments will also include large kitchens and living areas.

“It will be everything a student would want,” Duke said. “You can move in, get to work, get to class quick and have privacy and a really nice environment.”

Chief Administrative Officer Rich Péwé said although the school is involved in promoting the building project, the houses will be considered off campus.

“The college will give no guarantees about filling any beds, but I suspect there will be great interest because of the location and quality,” he said.   

Péwé added that the townhouses are an experiment, and if successful for the owners and the college, more will be built. This development could eventually benefit the city.

“Owners will pay Hillsdale City property taxes based on the value of the individual units,” Péwé said. “If they own it as their primary residence, the owner could qualify for the same tax abatement as residents on

Manning, however I do not think any owners will likely have it as their primary. As an investment property they will not qualify for the abatement and they will pay the .053 rate per $1,000.”

With regard to the housing project on Manning St., Péwé said the College is selling two more lots soon and hoping homes will go up within the next six months. The school is  currently renting 201 Manning St., colloquially known as The Boardwalk, to Weigand Construction, which is building the new chapel. After that project is complete, the house will be knocked down to make way for the Manning St. project.

For now, Duke said he is excited to provide students with more comfortable off campus living arrangements.

“It’ll be a whole new experience that you really don’t have on or off campus right now,” he said.

  • Marcy Almay

    LOL HE IS A BOARD MEMBER THAT THE COLLEGE DONATED THE LAND TO! He’s profiteering off his board position, it’s unreal! Pewe noted in a public meeting that HE opened Duke a non profit and that the college used their non profit status to raze the land for the project, and Duke is going to use it for student housing? Why the college won’t just build housing for their students and not violate their guarantees for 4 years of on campus housing is just SAD! They have a billion dollars in their endowment, they’re NOT broke and every red cent of that is supposed to be used FOR STUDENTS, not for hoarding and giving away for their board of trustee members to profiteer off of! Just really sad to see this not addressed as being an alarming means of using local community resources and abuse of power by a trustee to profiteer off his position by running a building project instead of demanding the school expand their housing options themselves! Wonder how many hours Pewe “donated” to working for Duke’s FOR PROFIT project? That equates to embezzlement from Hillsdale College to do “for profit” work, in my opinion, but worse? I think that land donation ALSO equates to a criminal act if a trustee got it using their influence to later profit from the sale of the condos, but hey, just so they employ our local prosecutor and have him all squared away, the public has no one looking after our interests, so the college officials can pretty much evade any inquires whatsoever from law enforcement. What a shame.

    • Marcy Almay

      VERY curious how their variance went, being they got it under a NON EXISTENT non profit name that Jack McClain reserved just after this meeting where CFO Pewe noted he just hadn’t opened the non profit for his board of trustees member yet. Did the variance just get changed into another non profit’s name without a public meeting, violating OMA or something?