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More students now able to call Auraria home

2 openings expand students' access to rooms with a view

Published August 5, 2006 at midnight

Kyrie Casey, 19, a communications and business management student at Metropolitan State College of Denver, loves everything about student housing at the former Regency hotel in north Denver, from the basketball court to the social activities to the free shuttle to the Auraria campus.

Carly Helm, a sophomore at the University of Colorado-Denver who plans to go to medical school, lived at The Regency last year, but she's now living at the Campus Village at Auraria dorms because she wanted a more traditional college experience on campus and wants to be able to cook meals in her dorm room.

Lauren Plava, 20, a biology major at Metro, is enjoying downtown living on the 30th floor of a former Executive Inn hotel tower that has been converted into the Inn at Auraria, less than a 10-minute walk from campus.

And all three of the students have views from their dorm windows they'd pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for if these were private condos.

Until last year, when developer V. Robert Salazar converted the crime-ridden Regency hotel into student housing, the more than 37,000 students on the campus had no student housing.

Auraria, which consists of Metro and UCD as well as the Community College of Denver, was thought to be the largest campus in the U.S. without student housing.

This month, two competitors, the Campus Village and Inn at Auraria, are joining The Regency: Auraria's Student Housing Community.

Together, they will provide about 1,800 beds, which in the industry is considered a better measure than the number of rooms, because as many as four students can live in a unit.

The three projects represent a $90 million development. Only The Regency is totally private, with the other two being public-private partnerships. They were developed by private developers but are owned by nonprofit groups.

An internal market study commissioned by Jim McGibney, developer of the 439-bed Inn at Auraria at 14th and Arapahoe streets, estimated there was enough demand for about 2,000 beds - in his project alone.

"For all of Auraria, the number is north of 4,000 beds," said McGibney, of First Century Development, which is co-developing the $17 million project with Dakota Ridge, on behalf of its owner, the Auraria Foundation.

Susan Powers, principal of Urban Ventures, which is developing the 685-bed, $50.4 million Campus Village for its owner, the CU Real Estate Foundation, said there also is demand long-term.

"Our concern has always been, is there enough demand in the first year, especially because Auraria has never (had) student housing in the past," Powers said. "It's like, is there enough demand for another 5,000 housing units in downtown? Yes. Would you want them to all come on line the same year? No."

The Campus Village, at Fourth and Walnut streets, is off to a good start.

Freshmen at UCD who want student housing are required to stay there.

"We expect when we open on Aug. 11, more than 600 of the 685 units will have been leased," Powers said.

Powers, the former executive director of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, noted that for years, the city has been grappling with how to capitalize on the huge campus and better integrate it with downtown.

She said representatives from Larimer Square, Writer Square and the Pavilions recently talked to her group about hiring students living at Campus Village during the Christmas shopping season, when there's a shortage of seasonal workers.

McGibney, developer of the Inn at Auraria, said he expects students to find a lot of employment opportunities downtown.

"The Auraria campus is really an unpolished gem for downtown," he said.

"You'll have students who are a five-minute walk to the campus, five minutes to LoDo, three minutes to the 16th Street Mall and across the street from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. They can work downtown and they won't have to worry about parking. I wish I had a place like this to live in when I went to college."

Michael Francone, general manager of the Regency, 3900 Elati St., said more than 80 percent of its 700 beds have been leased.

And more than 50 percent of the students who leased there last year stayed.

He said being two miles from the Auraria campus isn't a disadvantage thanks to the free shuttle to campus. He said many students also ride their bikes to campus.

Francone doesn't think the current three projects will come close to meeting the market demand.

"All of us are supplying very different and distinct products," he said.

And according to a blogger named Jonathan, the Regency has something no other dorm has: the ghost of Elvis, who reportedly stayed at the Regency during his - and the hotel's - heyday.

Francone said he was unaware of any Elvis sightings, as was Casey, the Metro student starting her second year at the Regency.

"I heard the ghost was called El Diablo," she said with a laugh.

or 303-892-5207

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