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WSU Makes Plans To Add More Housing First Priority Would Be To Build A 600-Unit Residential Hall

Off Stadium Way, on a hillside where Washington State University researchers once grew apples, would sprout 100 student apartments.

At the campus’s south entrance, where World War II veterans lived in old military housing while attending school, would go another 250 housing units.

Then there are 200 more units at the poultry farm, 350 units by the golf course, 100 or so family apartments by the Hilltop Stables and hundreds more living units in what would be one of biggest building booms in WSU history.

Cautioning that much hinges on the wishes of the WSU Regents and the Legislature, school officials Friday unveiled their most detailed plan to date of how they expect to house a growing number of students into the next century. If all goes according to plan, the university will oversee the development of 2,330 new living units of housing by the year 2005.

Combined with students living in fraternities and sororities, there then would be a total of 11,500 students in Greek or university housing. That would be in keeping with the university’s goal to house half its students in university-approved housing, said Sallie Giffen, WSU vice president for business affairs.

While the Pullman area has been strapped for student housing in recent years, Giffen and other school officials are laying plans for more housing in large part to accommodate a 50 percent increase in the number of college-age students by the year 2010.

“As WSU grows, if we are to grow, then we’ve got to have the housing available for our students,” Giffen said during a Chamber of Commerce lunch attended by 40 real estate agents, property managers and local leaders.

Giffen said the school’s first priority is for a new residence hall of about 600 units. It could be built at Washington Square near the south entrance to Stadium Way, off South Fairway near Bailey Field or somewhere else, Giffen said. Whatever the location, officials appear set on having the hall finished by the fall of 1997 if approved by the Regents. The board is scheduled to discuss the plan when it meets next month.

Overall, plans call for building 1,800 units of housing over five phases in nine years - a rate of 200 units a year. Other units would be created by renovating existing housing.

While many local business people have worried about the university unfairly competing with the private housing market, the crowd challenged few of the school’s plans.

WSU’s plan to build a new residence hall in two years received a skeptical reception, but several builders in the audience noted the school already owns the land and would not need to have its building sites rezoned.

Some city officials questioned the magnitude of WSU’s enrollment projections at a time when state officials appear unwilling to fully fund higher education.

WSU officials also have acknowledged that a dearth of state funding, from the limits of Proposition 601 to Gov. Mike Lowry’s current budget, poses a significant roadblock to increased enrollment.

“It’s still in the hands of the Legislature,” Pullman City Council member Ron Wachter said afterward.

“How that’s going to shake out, I don’t think anybody knows.”