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Brenau lobbies to turn apartment complex into dormitory
Cites growth in enrollment as reason
The Gainesville planning board heard a request for a special-use permit from Brenau University to change Parklane Apartments on Boulevard Avenue to dormitories for the school. - photo by Tom Reed

Brenau University plans to convert 14 apartments in the Parklane Apartments complex into a new dormitory for 56 university students this fall.

Wayne Dempsey, executive vice president and chief financial officer for the school, told the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on Tuesday that the university needs the new dormitory to accommodate its enrollment growth.

Also, Dempsey said a recent review by the fire marshal’s office called for the removal of 27 beds from two current university residence halls. He said the new dormitory would absorb the loss of those beds and would further expand university housing for students.

The board approved the university’s request to convert the apartments into a residence hall, and Gainesville City Council will take final action on the request at 5:30 p.m. July 1 at the Georgia Mountains Center.

The university would take possession of the apartments at the intersection of Boulevard Avenue and Park Street on July 1. Rusty Ligon, planning director for Gainesville, said the university aims to move students in this fall.

The apartments are currently owned by John Jacobs and the Jacobs Family Trust.

John Jacobs told the city planning board that his family bought the complex from Brenau University about 10 years ago when the school was in a time of financial distress.

"Now we want them to have it back," Jacobs said. "We think it will add a lot to (the university)."

Residents still occupy some of the Parklane Apartments’ two-bedroom and two-bathroom apartments.

Dempsey said all tenants have been notified of the change in ownership and Brenau has agreed to let residents live in the complex until their leases expire. Residents that have lived in the complex for at least seven years who are unable to find housing by the time their lease expires have until Dec. 31 to find new housing.

Brenda Powell has been a resident of Boulevard Avenue for about 15 years and told the planning board she did not oppose the dormitory conversion, but did have concerns about parking, lighting and trash ordinance violations.

"We’re excited about being there as Brenau grows, but I just want to make sure we’re all being good neighbors," she said. "I’m concerned about
parking, especially on Park Street. It’s already a hazard passing through Park Street."

Dempsey assured Powell that the university, as well as the two senior student resident assistants overseeing the dormitory, would strongly discourage students from improperly disposing of trash and parking on the street. He said students would be subject to ticketing by Gainesville Police if they violated the parking ordinance.

While Dempsey said he felt it was important for the parking lot behind the apartment complex to be well lit, especially since the campus is a primarily female one, he said reasonable lighting will be implemented that poses a limited nuisance to neighbors.

He said no major construction changes are planned for the new dormitory, but the university will spend $60,000 to install internet and cable technology for student residents.

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