As February draws to a close, Hillsdale is still adjusting to the multitude of changes brought to campus last year. If one were to describe life in the Dale in 2018 with one word, that word would most likely be: “construction.” The past twelve months saw the erection of Christ Chapel, the completion of the still unnamed new dorm, the renovation of Galloway residence hall and the completion of the classy College Park Townhouses. While all of this commotion affected life on campus, not all of the ventures have been appreciated by members of the college community.
For example, students living in the appropriately nicknamed “New Dorm” are happy with the college’s latest accommodations, citing the prime location, in-house coffee shop, and brand-new rooms. Similarly, campus is abuzz with excitement for the completion of Christ Chapel, the largest and most expensive of the many additions being made to Hillsdale College’s campus. Unfortunately, not all of the real-estate investments aimed at Hillsdale students have been quite as well-received.
The College Park Townhouses at the corner of West Street and College Street created quite a stir throughout the community when they were announced. The luxury apartments boasted security, privacy, convenience, and the perk of being fully furnished and move-in ready. Upon first glance, it seemed inevitable that these would become some of the most popular off-campus student housing options available. As it turns out, however, the perks do not come cheap, with the sticker price of a single room starting at $850 a month — and that’s to share the space with at least four other people. If you want your own space you better be prepared to shell out $1,250 a month for one bedroom and one bathroom in a townhouse.
Not many Hillsdale residents are looking for a five bedroom, five bathroom townhouse that would run more than twice the cost of any other living arrangements currently available. While the townhomes are spectacular, they are excessive. Their opulence and consequential price are the primary reason fewer than 25 percent of their rooms have been filled. As for those that have been rented, they are filled by donors or friends of the college rather than students as the developers initially intended. Few students are willing or able to pay for granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, or wood floors for their college years, especially when so many other quality options are available at half the cost.
One only needs to look to the apartments at 42 Union Street to understand where the demand for housing really lies. Since their completion in 2016, every unit has been filled, mostly by college students. Like the townhouses, these new apartments also offer new appliances, spacious rooms, and ample common living spaces — but without the exorbitant price tag. A three bedroom, one bathroom unit at 42 Union costs only $2,375 a semester — less than half the cost per person of living in the College Park Townhouses. While the commute to campus is a few blocks longer, 42 Union makes up for it with a popular coffee shop and study spot in its lobby.
Hillsdale students yearn for better off-campus living options. While graduates like to boast about the squalor in the dorms they lived in while in college, students prefer newly renovated houses or modernized apartments. To fill this need, new developers should look to flourishing 42 Union and not the empty townhouses as a template to follow.
As Hillsdale College seeks to update its facilities, private developers in the community are attempting to do the same. It is evident, however, that only some of these entrepreneurs truly know their market. The nearly-empty townhouses should serve as a warning for would-be landlords in the same way 42 Union is a pattern for success.
Erik Halvorson is a senior studying Economics.