After Duke bought 12 party houses off East Campus to take them off the student rental market, the reaction was predictable: Trinity Park residents celebrated, and students complained about the University's incursion into their social life.
"I don't think you would find anyone in the neighborhood who isn't happy with this," says Jen Minelli, an outspoken Durham resident and director of the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association. "The situation with the students for the past five years or so had become untenable."
The University bought the homes from Trinity Properties, a firm owned by Guy Solie, Trinity '67. Students say Trinity Properties attracted undergraduates with its lax enforcement of zoning rules and permissive attitude towards student parties. The proximity of the homes to East Campus also attracted frat boys interested in hosting parties that would lure freshmen during rush.
Many students had planned to live in the houses during the 2006-2007 school year, but Duke plans to sell all the houses to single-family owner-occupants as soon as current lease agreements expire.
The Trinity Park neighborhood is popular with Duke professors and medical center employees. Provost Peter Lange moved to the neighborhood from Chapel Hill this past summer.
"I am troubled with the University's actions," says junior Mike Joyce, who had planned to lease one of the houses before the purchase. "They continue to limit the student body's ability to have a normal college social scene."
Administrators says formal negotiations between Duke and Solie began in November 2005, following a rash of off-campus arrests of students in August for drinking violations, adding that the University has considered buying the properties for longer.
"People have been saying 'We should just buy up these houses' for probably more than five years," says Jeff Potter, Trinity '76 and Law '79, the University's director of real estate administration.
According to its official statement, Duke acquired the houses to increase homeownership in the Trinity Park neighborhood and defuse town-gown tensions resulting from student parties. Executive Vice President Tallman Trask says the prime motive, however, was moving alcohol-fueled parties away from the all-freshman East Campus. He also downplayed the importance of improving town-gown relations.
"We could buy a lot of property to do that," Trask says. "This purchase was particular because even before school started underage freshmen were going over the wall to parties right there, and that was particularly troublesome to us."
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