City briefed on new housing complex

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November 10, 2011

11:50 PM

Representatives from the College of William and Mary administration appeared before the Williamsburg Planning Commission Wednesday to discuss the new fraternity housing project in relation to the upcoming revision of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 said that the new fraternity complex would be beneficial for both the College and the city.

“Part of our mission in this project is to create residential facilities for our fraternity men that they can take pride in and feel a sense of ownership for, and that would keep them wanting to live and run their community activities on our campus. That suits a lot of mutual needs for all of us,” Ambler told the commission.

She was accompanied by Michael Fox, assistant to the president and secretary to the Board of Visitors, Chon Glover, assistant to the president for community initiatives, and Nancy Buchanan, executive director of the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation.

Ambler noted that the houses will keep fraternities closer to campus literally and figuratively, in that the chapters will develop a stronger sense of community and that they will have less of a presence in residential neighborhoods.

“[The houses] will give these chapters a place they can call their own and that they’re proud to come back to, and quite frankly … will keep fraternities from moving off-campus,” she said.

The new fraternity-housing complex will also ease the demand for on-campus housing, Ambler said. Construction on the project is expected to begin in April 2012 and completed by fall 2013.

The city and College estimate that approximately 1,800 students live off-campus, or about 20 percent of the student population. The College has been required to accept more in-state students due to mandates from the state government, but has not developed enough on-campus housing to keep up with the increase. Consequently, the demand for off-campus housing has gone up in recent years.

Each of the 11 houses will provide lodging for 17 individuals, which will accommodate about half of the average fraternity’s members, estimated at 34, one of the requirements for eligibility for a house. Of the 18 fraternity chapters on campus, 11 are eligible— which guarantees that each of these fraternities can get a house.

The Units will be repainted and refurnished once the fraternities move out for their new houses, Ambler said. She also added that resources must be allocated to improve older dormitories in order to maintain a high level of attractive housing options for students.

“We have to balance new construction with maintaining and bringing back up to par the existing residence halls. Our demand depends on our having attractive housing for students,” Ambler said.

Planning Commission First Vice Chair William Kafes also asked if there were any plans for new graduate student housing to help accommodate the demand for lodging on campus.

“We are looking at that, but we don’t have any plans at this point,” Ambler replied.

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