Duke purchases 300 Swift apartment complex to house students during Crowell renovations



Crowell residents—including members of four independent houses and selective living groups Cooper House and Wayne Manor—will be relocated to the apartment complex on 300 Swift Avenue for the 2017-18 academic year.

Last month, Duke purchased the 202-unit apartment complex for $50 million, regarded as one of the more upscale buildings near campus and a popular choice for seniors living off-campus, to provide housing for those students who will be displaced during upcoming campus renovations to Crowell and Craven. The complex will be used after that to continue housing students as the University accelerates its plans to demolish portions of Central Campus, said Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez.

"It really made a lot of sense to add this complex to our inventory to accommodate undergraduates," Gonzalez said.

The 300 Swift apartments are located near Central Campus and come in studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom layouts. Amenities include a washer, dryer and full kitchen in each apartment, as well as a gym, pool and parking garage for the complex. Duke Housing, Dining and Residence Life will be providing furniture. 

Beginning in Fall 2017, approximately 300 students will be living in the apartments, Gonzalez said. That number will increase as the leases of current Swift residents expire and Duke is able to use more of the apartments. According to the Student Affairs website, as many as 450 students will be housed there throughout the year.

“I’d imagine that students who are moved there will feel like they won the lottery,” senior Dylan Grien, who currently lives in 300 Swift, said. “I was amazed at the quality of living when compared to my friends on Central and myself on West. It’s a total night and day difference. I was definitely surprised when they made the announcement."

Costs of living in the new apartments for this year will be the same as living in Crowell, Gonzalez explained. One-bedroom apartments—the most common option at 300 Swift—will house two students. The cost of one-bedroom apartments at 300 Swift currently range from $1,025 to $1,640 per month, according to nearDuke.com. Housing in an air-conditioned double in Crowell for the 2016-17 school year cost $8,286 per person.

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email that all 300 Swift residents’ current leases would be honored but that they would not be renewed.

Current residents include Duke seniors, recent Duke graduates and non-Duke affiliated residents.

Kate Abendroth, Trinity ’16 and a current resident of 300 Swift, said she was not aware that leases were not being renewed. The only communication she had received about the purchase was a letter from Durham Reality Incorporated, the corporation through which Duke acquires real estate, notifying her about the change in ownership.

“As someone who is a recent graduate of Duke, I’m upset that Duke is going to make me move again,” noted Abendroth, whose lease expires in June. “And they’re not taking the time to properly inform the residents so the residents can plan ahead.”

Gonzalez said that the plan was to inform students and current 300 Swift residents of the changes at the same time but that communication with 300 Swift residents actually took place after students were told.

Renovations of the Crowell quadrangle are set to begin in May 2017 and finish in August 2018. Students will return to Crowell at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year. Gonazalez previously told The Chronicle that potential relocation plans included moving Wayne Manor to Craven AA, Cooper House to Keohane 4D and independent houses to other dorms on West—which would have affected the spaces of some existing sections.

“I definitely understand why they’re doing it,” Grien said. “It doesn’t require a huge capital investment, the infrastructure already’s there and it’s an opportunity to expedite the process of updating Central. At the same time, some of my neighbors are new families and some aren’t Duke students. I feel for them because they’re happy to have a central location and great amenities, and it’s a shame for them to be relocated.”

Scott Selig, associate vice president of capital assets and real estate who was in charge of the deal, explained that Duke bought the apartment complex for $50 million, paid entirely up front.

Selig noted that Duke often purchases real estate for office space, lab space and other uses, but rarely for residential purposes.

“Duke has not purchased many apartments before," he said. "We’ve had enough residential housing stock on campus to fulfill our needs, so this is new in that sense."

Claire Ballentine contributed reporting. 


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