Duke acquired housing in the apartments in June as part of an effort to reduce residential density to combat the spread of the coronavirus. From amenities to the close proximity to 9th Street, the apartments are living up to or even exceeding the expectations of their residents.
“The best part is that we have a balcony—way better than living in Kilgo last semester,” junior Jeremy Pineda said.
The Blue Light apartments are on the site of the old Sam’s Quik Shop—and share the name of the Blue Light Restaurant, started by Boy family, owners of the Quik Shop. That shop, which was a student favorite for decades, closed at the end of 2018.
In December 2019, the Boy family announced that they would open a new convenience store in downtown Durham. Wilmorite, a New York-based commercial real estate development company, proposed the current development, which was meant to target Duke juniors and seniors with fully furnished apartments.
Blue Light comes with a rooftop pool, hot tub, coffee machine, balcony, gym and fully furnished apartments. Although Duke is charging the standard dorm room rate of $4,582 a semester, bedrooms typically start at $1,350 a month in a three-bedroom apartment or $1,550 a month in a two-bedroom, according to Blue Light’s website.
“Especially for financial aid recipients, this was a lifesaver for off-campus living,” junior Kyle Melatti said. “My apartment came fully furnished with a queen-sized bed, refrigerator, TV, couch, balcony and walk-in closet.”
Although students have appreciated the differences from normal dorm living, it has posed challenges for resident assistants trying to build community in the building. Jake Malone, a senior and an RA in Blue Light, wrote a column in The Chronicle about the difficulty of bringing students together in the new housing.
“Honestly, the place just doesn’t have a personality yet,” Malone wrote.
For residents off campus, however, transportation from Blue Light to see friends is far from inconvenient. There is a bus stop located off of Pettigrew Street—one of the cross-streets at the corner where Blue Light is located—where Duke buses frequent every ten minutes.
“On days I am too lazy to cook or busy with assignments, I often find myself taking the bus to West campus and grabbing a meal with a friend or two,” senior Farzeen Najam said. “This provides me with some form of normalcy amid crazy times.“
Despite Duke’s increased rules around COVID-19—including mandatory pool testing—the building’s proximity to both East and West Campus has made the transition easy for some residents.
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“I just walk to East Campus to get a COVID-19 test,” junior and Blue Light resident Franklin Boampong said. “Since I am an engineering student, once I had to pick up my laboratory kit for lab work, it was very easy and quick due to proximity to campus.”
For some students, living so close to East Campus has brought back memories from their first year.
“Being so close to East Campus is fantastic because I can go for a walk around the trail and feel connected to where I lived freshman year,” Melatti reflected. “If we ever feel like we need to get out of the apartment, 9th Street is just around the corner. There's always something to do.”