EAST LANSING – University Village Apartments once played home to Michigan State University’s married students – young couples starting their lives together in compact and affordable apartments away from the undergraduate throngs.
They’re mostly a home for birds now, who nest in the rusting metal beams supporting the walkways that ring the two-story brick buildings, and for the skeletons of bicycles, left chained when their owners moved out. Of the hundreds of married, international and graduate students who were living there when classes started last fall, perhaps half a dozen are left, and even they will be gone by the end of the week. Starting Tuesday, the 53-year-old buildings, built as temporary housing for soldiers returning from the Korean War, will be torn to the ground.
Make Way for New
They’ll make way for new four-bedroom undergraduate apartments, aimed at students who aren’t keen on close communal living in MSU’s other residence halls. The apartments will hold 304 students and should by finished by fall 2007. The project will cost $16 million. The buildings in University Village have been sliding into disrepair for years. Now, according to Chuck Gagliano, MSU’s assistant vice president for housing and food services, “the cost to begin to maintain them or renovate them far outweighs the cost to build new.”
Meg Cowen remembers them when they were clean and new and buzzing with activity. She lived at University Village from 1954 to 1958 with her former husband, Don Bols, and their infant daughter, JoAnne. What she remembers especially are the Saturday night pizza parties, when their neighbors, many of them international students, would gather at their apartment to watch “The Honeymooners” and drink Sebewaing Beer. “All kinds of people came, people who didn’t speak English,” she said, “A lot of them would just sit and nod and smile, but we ate pizza, drank that awful beer and had a great time.” Cowen, of Plymouth, said she won’t mourn the buildings’ passing; she’s 72 and “used to things changing.”
A Fond Farewell
Doreen Hannon will. She and her husband, Mark, lived in apartment 1103J from 1980 to 1983, and it holds memories of their early life together. “Even though we didn’t have much, we were really happy,” she said. “We were on the brink of our future.” Hannon, of South Lyon, said she visited the apartment on a trip to MSU last month and was bothered by the fact that the screen door on a neighboring apartment was hanging open, broken. “It just felt wrong, almost like a sin that the building wasn’t being taken care of,” she said. “Later, I realized that they weren’t going to fix the door because they were going to tear it down.”
The few people still living at University Village expressed few qualms about its passing. “I think it’s time,” said Pam Prokop, standing in front of an apartment piled high with boxes. Prokop and her husband, Larry, a professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, have been living there while they wait for a house they’re building in Mason to be finished. She said they’ve enjoyed the quiet of the last few months – most residents left soon after news of the demolition spread last fall – but she won’t miss the place. “From the outside, they actually look OK,” she said, “but from the inside, they need to be modernized.”
MSU won’t just replace them with modern buildings, the first new residences built at MSU since 1967, but with buildings geared toward what modern students want. According to Gagliano, students in decades past came from families with more children. They often shared bedrooms. They didn’t have many possessions. And that, he said, is “exactly opposite of today’s student.” Those students, he said, “want to have more of an experience of living on their own.” And the new buildings, with separate bedrooms and soundproof walls, are meant to give that to them.
Contact Matthew Miller at 377-1046 or email@example.com.
Demolition begins Tuesday on University Village Apartments to make way for new, four-bedroom units for 304 undergraduate students. The $16 million project is expected to be completed by fall 2007.