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New student housing complex could change dynamic of University Heights

Complex located off LaSalle Avenue to open in August

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Some UB students have lived in decrepit houses susceptible to crime and with absentee landlords located in the University Heights for years. The neighborhood, located right off South Campus, has been plagued with high crimes rates, absentee landlordism and tensions between residents and partying students.

A new multi-million dollar gated student housing community in the neighborhood could help change that.

Legacy Development, a Buffalo-based real estate developer, is currently constructing the first student housing complex in the Heights, called Axis 360, with an initial opening of 532 bedrooms in August 2016. Campus Advantage, an Austin, Texas based student housing company, is managing the complex that will be located on LaSalle Avenue off of Main Street and in close proximity to the metro rail.

The complex will mostly market to UB students, but will also reach out to other local universities, such as SUNY Buffalo State, Canisius College and Daemen College. The complex’s proximity to the metro rail, which travels to downtown Buffalo, could make it an ideal spot for UB medical students, as the medical school will move downtown in 2017.

Bryanna Hollis, the location’s floating lease manager, said students can start signing leases in early 2016 once a temporary leasing office is constructed on the location.

Hollis said Legacy Development recognized a lack of student housing near South Campus and engaged a student housing consulting group to confirm feasibility for the project. The results showed UB students desired to live at a professionally managed student housing community near South Campus, so Legacy hired the Campus Advantage, Hollis said.

She said the reason no one has built something similar in the neighborhood before is the difficulty assembling enough land. The property, owned by Legacy Development and given site plan approval by the City of Buffalo in December of 2013, is off of LaSalle Avenue and is bordered by McCarthy Park.

“Legacy identified a unique opportunity to acquire the project site which allowed us to bring Axis 360 to the [University Heights] District and UB South Campus,” Hollis said.

The new complex has the support of community leaders like Mickey Vertino, president of the University Heights Collaborative. Verinto said the complex will help give students more housing options than the older homes in the Heights and he hopes it will bring business to Main Street.

“I personally think it’s a good thing to give the students some other options other than 100-year homes in the Heights,” Vertino said.

Vertino said students with “neglectful landlords” may get the opportunity to inhabit quality living spaces with quality landlords with the new housing complex.

Dan Ryan, UB director of Off-Campus Student Services, accompanies City of Buffalo inspectors into students’ apartments on housing blitzes. He’s seen students living in homes with faulty or absent smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, faulty wiring and other violations.

Axis 360 will give students who want to live in the Heights, which can be attractive due to its close proximity to campus and the nightlife scene, an alternative to leasing apartments, some of which are in poor condition.

Ryan said in order to create a functional living community within the Heights, landlords and property owners need to make sure that they bring their properties up to code and make the right investments.

The housing complex could potentially help alleviate tensions between residents and students in the Heights. The private complex could take some students out of such close proximately to their nonstudent neighbors, who have complained about student drinking, loitering and littering in the neighborhood for years.

The tensions have reached a high this semester, forcing UB and Buffalo Police to take further action. During the first few weeks of the fall semester alone, UB disciplined 57 students that Buffalo Police arrested and ticketed for partying in the Heights.

The Heights are known for high crime rates and students have reported having their homes broken into and being mugged while walking the streets. In 2012, there were more than 500 major reported crimes in the Heights, including homicides, assaults, rapes, larcenies, robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts.

Hollis said Axis 360 will be fully gated and extremely well lighted to help prevent crime. She said there will also be “courtesy officer patrols” during the evening hours.

“We will have comprehensive camera security throughout the property similar to the blue light cameras used by Buffalo Police,” she said.

But students may not be ready to leave their apartments for a gated housing community, as students who live in the Heights often do so for the cheap rent. Campus Advantage does not have set rates at this time, but Hollis said they will be competitively priced with other student housing complexes in the area. Rent for complexes surrounding North Campus, such as Sweet Home Village and the Villas on Rensch, often double that of rent for homes in the Heights.

Ryan worries the pricing of the apartment complex may be unattractive to students, especially considering the complex will be a 20-minute walk to South Campus. Campus Advantage plans to have a shuttle to take students to and from campus daily.

“But it may be attractive for students at Daemen College, Buffalo State or architecture students,” he said.

The first phase of Axis 360 will be open to new tenants as soon as August 2016. This phase includes the building of studio two- and three-bedroom apartments, each with a bathroom attached to the bedroom.

The furnished rooms will also be equipped with stackable washers and dryers, as well as granite countertops and laminate flooring. Phase Two of Axis 360 is expected to be completed by August 2017. Four bedroom apartments will be an option for students once this phase is finished.

Axis 360 will offer fitness centers, outdoor fitness areas as well as a swimming pool-sized hot tub and grilling stations.

“We will feature a huge clubhouse complete with a computer lab, juice bar, private study rooms, a recreation and gaming area,” Hollis said. “There will also be a complete fitness center with state of the art exercise equipment along with a training room with spinning bikes, TRX and video on-demand fitness programs.”

Sam Ackerman, a senior accounting major, currently lives in the University Heights area.

“I have lived on South for two years now and I like it here but I don’t know if I want to live so close to the rowdy nightlife,” Ackerman said.

Campus Advantage manages 25,000 beds nationwide.

Editor’s note: Evan Schneider, Marlee Tuskes and Ashley Inkumsah contributed reporting on this piece

Tom Dinki is the editor in chief and can be reached at tom.dinki@ubspectrum.com


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