Two Grand Avenue housing projects open doors this fall for 100 more students to live on campus

Up to 100 additional undergraduate students will live on the St. Thomas campus this fall as a result of two housing projects on Grand Avenue.

Between 50 and 60 St. John Vianney Seminary students will live in the apartment building at 2085 Grand instead of at six off-campus sites, and 40 sophomores will move into the apartment building at 2151 Grand.

Both buildings this year house St. Thomas students and young alumni as well as a few members of the general public. Under the changes, 2151 Grand will become part of the university’s Residence Life system and St. John Vianney will operate 2085 Grand.

The projects are a result of an ongoing effort to encourage more undergraduate students to live on campus. About 45.3 percent live on campus this year, and the two new projects should increase the residential population to 47 percent.

Here are the details on each project.

SJV Grand

St. John Vianney enrollment has more than doubled this decade, from 70 in fall 2001 to 154 last fall, and the seminary building at the north end of the St. Thomas campus has room for only 100 students; consequently, about 50 students are living this year in four neighborhood houses and the rectories at the Cathedral of St. Paul and Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

The 2085 Grand building, which St. Thomas has owned since 2001, will be leased to St. John Vianney and will be renovated this summer.

"It will be a great improvement to have all seminarians in two locations versus seven," said Father William Baer, rector of the seminary. “Our 28 sponsoring dioceses very much want their seminarians to live on campus so they are an active part of the St. Thomas community.”

Baer said seminary life in SJV Grand will be similar to what occurs in the main building. Two priests will live in SJV Grand and will oversee the formation of seminarians. There will be a small chapel, and each floor will have a lounge. SJV Grand residents will join other seminarians each morning in the main building chapel for prayer and Mass, and other all-seminary gatherings will include spiritual conferences and certain meals. SJV fall enrollment is projected at 160 students.

Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt thanked St. Thomas for addressing his request to find an alternative housing arrangement for the seminarians so they could live on campus. He called the 2085 Grand building "a perfect solution. I am immensely grateful to those at St. Thomas who assisted with this project. Their cooperation could not have been better."

The archdiocese founded St. John Vianney in 1968. Its mission is to provide a setting where young men grow stronger in their faith and discern whether they want to pursue the priesthood. Students graduate with a St. Thomas degree, and some matriculate at major seminaries, including the St. Paul Seminary. Since its founding, 322 St. John Vianney alumni have been ordained.

2151 Grand

St. Thomas has owned the apartment building at 2151 Grand since 1999, and has decided to add it to the Residence Life system to provide a special residential experience for sophomores.

The building will be renovated this summer and will include 16 apartments, mostly triples and doubles, and a lounge. An undergraduate student who is an apartment coordinator and a graduate student also will live there.

Aaron Macke, director of Residence Life, said 2151 Grand will provide sophomores a second on-campus option in addition to staying in traditional residence halls.

"More sophomores would like to live in Morrison or Selby halls but there isn’t room because of the number of juniors and seniors who live there," Macke said. "The 2151 Grand building is a natural step and keeps them on campus. We also will keep our ‘sophomore experience’ floors in Dowling and Brady for students who want to stay on the main campus."

Campus housing trends

By this fall, St. Thomas will have added more than 1,000 beds over the last 11 years in an effort to build a stronger residential community and encourage more students to live on campus and not in the neighborhood.

About 35 percent – 1,630 – of undergraduate students lived on campus in 1997. Morrison and Selby halls, which are apartment residences for 340 and 418 students, opened in 1998 and 2005. St. Thomas also has added housing at other locations in recent years, including the Child Development Center Residence in 2005 and houses at 2110 Summit and 2109 Grand in 2006. In addition, several Grand and Summit houses are assigned as Catholic Studies houses.

The residence halls and houses have had virtually 100 percent occupancy for a decade. Ninety percent of freshmen, 44 percent of sophomores, 23 percent of juniors and 17 percent of seniors live on campus this year. This fall, a projected 2,650 undergraduate students will live on campus, or 47 percent of the anticipated day undergraduate population.

A Conditional Use Permit approved by the city in 2004 allows additional housing on the two blocks bounded by Summit, Cleveland, Grand and Cretin. The total number of beds on the blocks cannot exceed 450, the permit says, and there can be no more than 100 beds on Summit.

St. Thomas has no short-term plans to redevelop the two blocks for new housing but will continue to monitor residential housing demand. Planned short-term construction projects include the south campus parking ramp in 2008-09, improvements to athletic and recreational facilities in 2009-2010, a new student center in 2010-2011 and renovation of Murray-Herrick Campus Center in 2011-12.