Faced with declining occupancy, Northwestern University plans to close the Lake Shore Center, 850 N. Lake Shore Drive, which provides housing for professional and graduate students on Northwestern’s Chicago campus, at the end of this summer, University officials announced today (Jan. 27).
All students currently living in the center will be allowed to stay until their housing contract for this academic year expires, but no housing will be offered for next academic year, said William Banis, vice president for student affairs. Food service facilities in Lake Shore Center also will remain open while there are residents living there.
The center can house up to 449 students, but only 127 are currently living there, Banis said. Most of the students living in the center are enrolled in Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine or School of Law.
“Graduate and professional school students prefer apartments with kitchens and other amenities rather than dormitory-style living, and the market is such that they pay close to the same amount of rent for apartments as they would for rooms in the Lake Shore Center,” Banis noted. “As a result, we’ve seen occupancy decline significantly during the past several years.”
The building is in need of significant renovation, which would cost a minimum of $10 million just to fix the maintenance problems and would be as much as $35 million to convert the housing into apartment-style units, officials estimate.
“Given how much we would have to charge students to cover the costs of a renovation, it’s simply not cost-effective to do so,” Banis said.
The University plans to assist graduate and professional school students in finding housing in Chicago, Banis said.
The University also will continue to provide housing in Abbott Hall, a mixed-use facility located at 710 N. Lake Shore Drive. Abbott contains 42 units of family housing in furnished studio and one-bedroom apartments.
The decision to close Lake Shore Center came after extensive discussions with all the schools on the Chicago campus, Banis said.
Built in 1927 as a home for the Lake Shore Athletic Club, the 17-story building was purchased by Northwestern in 1977 and has been used for student housing since that time. In addition to housing, the building contains offices, dining rooms, function rooms and recreational facilities.
The University plans to build a new fitness center in Abbott Hall in the area currently occupied by the dining facility, which will be closed by the end of the current academic year. The new fitness center will include exercise machines, weights and locker rooms. In addition, a squash court on the first floor of Abbott Hall that is currently used for storage will be renovated for use for squash.
When the Abbott Hall fitness center is completed, the Lake Shore Center recreational facilities will be closed. Because of physical limitations, the new Abbott Hall facility will not include a swimming pool or basketball court, both of which currently exist in Lake Shore Center.
All current memberships in the Lake Shore fitness facility will be honored, but no new memberships will be accepted at this time, Banis said. He also said that the University will continue to explore other options for recreational facilities for students, faculty and staff.
The Counseling and Psychological Service office currently located in Lake Shore Center will be relocated next summer to a Student Affairs suite of offices in Abbott Hall. Those offices now include the offices of Services for Students with Disabilities, the University Chaplain and Health Education.
No decision has been made on what will be done with the Lake Shore Center building, said Eugene S. Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance.