EDWARDSVILLE — College students no longer have to choose between all-inclusive dorm living and the free-for-all of off-campus student apartments -- a third option is becoming more popular, at least near Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
The city approved the second Enclave student housing development, this time on the edge of the city. It was originally a county project, but Madison County and the city of Edwardsville worked together on its development, and now the project will be annexed into the city to access municipal services.
Enclave is a 17-acre all-student apartment complex that is run similarly to residence halls on campus: three or four students share a common living space with kitchen and living room.
But there are some differences just for students.
"In a traditional apartment, you and your roommates sign a lease that is jointly liable," said developer Corey Wenzel. "With us, you only sign a contract for your bed space. If I have three roommates and we're all living here, and one gets accepted at another school, that could really put us in a bind in a regular apartment."
The rent is all-inclusive; everything from electricity and water to Internet service is included for approximately $600 a month.
The first Enclave, which has no vacancies, was developed near the main campus in a residential area. But there were some concerns among neighbors about the effect the project would have on their neighborhood.
It eventually ended up in court before the project could move forward.
Enclave West, as it has been named, is on the edge of campus. It eventually will get its own stoplight, and Wenzel hopes it will spur more development on that side of town.
"It's continuing to be an amazing project," Wenzel said. "We're about 100 feet from SIUE property, and there will be a dedicated walking trail connecting with ours at the edge of the property. ... You can bike to campus in a couple of minutes."
Enclave West also has permission to develop four-bedroom apartments, which is not permitted in the rest of the city.
SIUE opened as a commuter school, but began building residence halls in 1994. It now has three freshmen residence halls and one hall, built in 2007, that was designed for upperclassmen more like an apartment building, with kitchenettes and private rooms.
Residence halls are no longer the cinderblock jail cells of previous decades, either: They have softer textures, carpet and drywall, suites with shared rooms and amenities such as snack bars and fitness centers, according to Mike Schultz, director of university housing. In upperclass halls, it's mostly private rooms off a shared kitchen, he said.
"The American family has gotten smaller and the houses have gotten larger, so students are used to having a private room," Schultz said.
But SIUE continues to have a waiting list for the freshmen dorms. "It was a little smaller this year; under 50 students," Schultz said. By the time the semester started, they were able to house all the students that still wanted to get into freshmen housing, he said.
At one point, SIUE's waiting lists were as long as 200 students. In the meantime, rental housing throughout the city was flooded with students who either could not get into the residence halls, or wanted more independent living.
"Several of the apartment complexes in the Esic area have become occupied on a high percentage by students," said city administrator Ben Dickmann. While those buildings were not identified as student housing when they were built 30 years ago, they are now almost exclusively student-occupied, he said.
But they are traditional apartments, with utilities and services that might be difficult for a student to manage, and there's always the risk that a roommate will leave the other students holding the lease.
"We are pleased to have a quality development for the students," Dickmann said. "Too often they feel forced to settle for something less. The way these are designed, students can live together and generally afford a nicer place."
Wenzel said he would never compare on-campus and off-campus living. "SIUE does a spectacular job with on-campus living," he said. "But as you become a junior or senior, you might want to explore off-campus living."
Schultz said at the moment, there are no discussions of building more residence halls on campus. In the last year of his term, former chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift voiced his support for on-campus residential housing for Greek organizations, but that project never got traction before Vandegrift's retirement.
As SIUE's enrollment and reputation grows, Wenzel said he's betting on Edwardsville. "It's an excellent city," he said. "I live here, and I believe in everything going on in this town. I think (SIUE) will be an elite school and will continue to grow."
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 239-2501.