Cottages appear headed for UNH

Town could approve neighborhood-style housing option

By Kelly Sennott
On November 18, 2010

  • The town could approve a plan that would allow a large village of cottages to move into UNH. Courtesy

The town of Durham could approve a plan that would put UNH students in classier cribs through Capstone Development, a student housing firm that has built cottages, apartments and dorms on 57 campuses across the country.

The development firm went before the Durham Planning Board last month and presented a plan to build a large neighborhood-style housing development composed of cottages. Capstone is looking to house over 600 students.

It seems UNH students will have a plethora of choices for housing in the next few years, as Capstone is only one of the many student housing development plans occurring in Durham. The lots on 10 Pettee Brook Lane, 1 Madbury Road and 9 to 11 Madbury Road are also being turned into mixed-use buildings likely to house UNH students.

A large village of cottages is what Capstone is proposing, but these buildings would not be small and quaint, as cottages often are.

John Acken, the Vice President Capstone Development, said that each cottage would house between three to five students. Each bedroom would have its own walk-in closet and bathroom.

Acken also said that the company would work with UNH so that Wildcat transit would stop by the cottage complex.

In the center of the development, Acken said that they would like to build a "clubhouse" for the students who live in the development. This "clubhouse" would contain a computer lab, a gym, tanning beds, pool tables, and to top it off, a heated outdoor pool.  Capstone is looking to build the complex off Technology Drive, which is close to the Route 4 Bridge.

But Mark Henderson, chair of the Durham Landlord Association, has serious doubts about the Capstone proposal. He recently sent a letter to Director of Planning and Community Development Jim Campbell requesting a Right-to-Know request to see all past correspondence between the Board and Capstone, as well as any future correspondences.

It's not difficult to pinpoint why local landlords might be concerned. Six-hundred more spots? However, Henderson said that his concern is more about the oversaturation. If this project goes through, it's likely that there will be more beds in Durham than there are students.

An article in Foster's Daily Democrat proposes the idea that students would be more likely move into this housing development, and therefore, move out of Durham neighborhoods, finally solving the case of the noisy college students.

Henderson disagrees.

"The noise in the neighborhood is a problem, and I empathize with the people,but I don't think Capstone is the answer," Henderson said.

 Henderson said that having Capstone add a large complex of cottages would go against the Durham Master Plan, and subsequently, it would negatively affect the Durham businesses.

According to Todd Selig, the town administrator, the complex would broaden its tax base by $20 to $30 million. But Henderson said that a broader tax base would decrease the value of the existing properties, which ultimately, would not be good for Durham. He is also afraid that the Town Council will not hold Capstone to the same standards as other building proposals because of their eagerness to welcome their project to the town.

Henderson said that the association's goal is not to stop Capstone, but the group is concerned that the town will grant variances that they wouldn't have given otherwise.

Capstone is scheduled to return to the Planning Board within the month to submit a formal application.

Prices have yet to be determined, but Acken said he expects they'll be competitive in the local market.

But as wonderful as a heated outdoor pool sounds to UNH senior Bailey Shea, she said that she personally would not be interested in living in the neighborhood, primarily because of the location.

"I chose to live in Davis Court because I can still walk to campus and take the Wildcat transit system," Shea said. She added that she enjoys living off campus in Davis Court because she can still walk to campus while experiencing freedom that off-campus housing allows.

Henderson agrees.

"Part of the experience of college is being close to campus. I don't see Capstone helping downtown Durham," Henderson said.

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