- Associated Press - Sunday, August 31, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - The Aspire at West Campus residence complex is the latest addition to University of Iowa housing - for now.

The $31 million public-private partnership that university administrators inaugurated this month is only the latest housing project at the university, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported (http://icp-c.com/1mY95CF ).

A new residence hall is scheduled to open in 2015 and at least one additional housing complex is likely to follow.

Booming enrollment in recent years led to the university spending millions leasing off-campus apartment buildings, including renting four off-campus properties for $2.5 million last school year. The college enrolled 31,065 students last fall, marking the seventh year the university had more than 30,000 students on campus.

And with officials in the middle of an aggressive multimedia marketing blitz trying to attract more in-state students, University of Iowa may need more beds.

University of Iowa’s Senior Vice President and Treasurer Douglas True said a silver lining to the devastating 2008 flood was the forced redevelopment of outdated infrastructure.

“We got serious and we knew that we couldn’t kick the can down the road in the long run,” True said at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Aspire.

Eventually that led to negotiations with Balfour Beatty, an international, publicly traded development company based in London.

The Iowa state Board of Regents voted in 2011 to demolish the Hawkeye Court apartments. The 14-month construction process began last year.

Aspire at West Campus replaces student housing built in the 1960s with 270 one- and two-bedroom units targeting graduate students and university faculty. The Aspire facility contains five, three-story buildings totaling 265,600 square feet and cost about $31 million. The facility also includes a separate one-story community center with more than 5,400 square feet that houses a management office and common spaces, including a fitness center, a laundry facility and a multipurpose room.

Aspire resident and part-time employee Ben Roberson of Portland, Oregon, is starting his first year of law school at the university this fall.

Roberson said he considered off-campus housing, but renting a house would have been too expensive and most apartments around Iowa City he saw were run down, he said.

“A lot of them seemed old and dilapidated, and a lot of them had no real light,” Roberson said. “I felt like I was going to live in a monk’s hovel.”

Roberson said he found only two on-campus housing alternatives that were less expensive than Aspire.

Rent at the new complex costs on average about 90 percent more than its predecessor. Last year, Hawkeye Court one- and two-bedroom apartments were listed, respectively, at $495 and $540. At Aspire, one-bedrooms are listed at $875 a month while two-bedrooms are priced at $1,100 a month.

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