2016: Take an aerial tour of WSU's Innovation Campus

Check out the construction progress at Wichita State University's Innovation Campus from an aerial drone. Footage provided by WSU.
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Check out the construction progress at Wichita State University's Innovation Campus from an aerial drone. Footage provided by WSU.
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Education

Fairmount Towers dorm to close next month, be torn down

By Daniel Salazar

dsalazar@wichitaeagle.com

July 14, 2017 11:29 AM

Fairmount Towers will close in mid-August and eventually be demolished, a decision by Wichita State University that will move hundreds of students to a new apartment complex that had problems with vacancies going into the fall semester.

More than 300 students who were supposed to move into Fairmount Towers in five weeks will be housed in The Flats at WSU, located on the Innovation Campus. The university said the affected students will live at those apartments at no additional cost.

“With some of the space availability in The Flats, it seemed like we could close the Fairmount,” said Teri Hall, WSU’s vice president of student affairs. “We just thought it was a great opportunity.”

The Flats, constructed by MWCB, LLC and scheduled to open in early August, will be located south of Eck Stadium and Mike Oatman Drive. The one- to four-bedroom apartments are fully furnished and include shared kitchens, washer-dryers and living rooms.

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Hall said revenue from students’ rent payments will go toward paying the university’s lease with MWCB — a partnership owned by prominent Wichita businessmen David Murfin, Nestor Weigand Jr., Ivan Crossland and Steve Barrett.

The Flats will have 112 apartments, with a full occupancy originally projected at 285 residents. WSU spokesman Joe Kleinsasser said some apartments could have more students than they were originally intended to house.

“It’s still probably more spacious than what they were originally in (at Fairmount Towers),” he said.

Kleinsasser said an updated occupancy for The Flats is now about 400 students.

Filling The Flats

The Flats were going to be fairly empty without the move — only 47 people had signed leases before the announcement that Fairmount Towers would close.

Hall said rooms at The Flats were leasing below expectations, but she said that “wasn’t necessarily surprising.”

“The first time a new public-private partnership opens up, that first year is a bit of a struggle,” Hall said. “We knew this first year wasn’t going to be at occupancy.”

In May, the university announced lower rates and deposits at The Flats after concerns over the cost.

Kleinsasser said rent at The Flats ranged from $3,600 to $5,070 per semester, depending on room size. At Fairmount Towers, students were paying $2,190 per semester for a double room and $2,950 for a single room.

Hall said students who signed the more expensive leases before the announcement will get larger beds and free underground parking and will not have to share bedrooms with other students.

“They’re going to get some of those amenities that they signed up for,” Hall said.

WSU’s housing and residence life department will manage The Flats.

Fate of Fairmount

The 53-year-old Fairmount Towers has “reached the end of its useful life,” associate vice president for facilities Eric King said in a news release.

He referenced a 2015 report that determined Fairmount Towers saw limited demand from students and was too isolated from the core of WSU’s campus. Students had to cross two busy streets – 21st Street and Hillside – to get to Fairmount Towers.

The land, on the northwest corner of 21st and Hillside, could be converted for “other university uses,” King said. Hall added there’s no time-line for a decision on what to do with the property.

WSU’s provost and senior vice president Tony Vizzini said it’s part of an effort to create “a more residential, 24-hour campus,” pointing to the 2014 opening of Shocker Hall, which is near the basketball arena and some academic buildings.

Hall said the university still has four years left of payments for the bonds on Fairmount Towers, which would come out of the university’s housing reserves.

She said she was excited that students who would have lived in Fairmount Towers will be closer to campus.

“They can contribute in campus life in greater numbers than they would have before.”

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar