Construction Underway on Approved Student Housing Complex

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COLUMBIA - Construction for a new student housing complex near the University of Missouri's campus was expected to start Wednesday.

Columbia Housing Partners plans to build a six-story, 351-bed building on the corner of Fifth street and Conley avenue just steps from MU's campus.

Columbia's Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the new apartment complex, which was approved with another March 19, will help accommodate MU's growing number of students.

"Over the last decade, we have seen a huge increase in the enrollment at the university which I think has driven this current interest in downtown housing," he said.

St. Romaine added residents of the new apartments will also feed more money into the city by visiting the restaurants, bars and shops a stone's throw away.

"Having additional residents downtown, there are additional services that go with that," he said. "From a standpoint of restaurants, bars, theaters, these are places those residents those residents will want to get their services from, that they're going to recreate, enjoy evenings out."

Not everyone said the new complexes are a great idea.

"I think we've got too many, I think they've gone overboard," Columbia resident Jim Burton said.

Burton has seen the city transform since he moved here in 1970 before settling in his current home three years later. What once was a cow pasture in his backyard is now a student housing complex off Grindstone Parkway.

Burton said he's seen a lot of changes since over the years.

"When we moved here in 73, there was one little store, a mom and pop grocery store on the south side of town up on the hill."

The long-time Columbia resident added he thinks the student housing bubble is about to burst.

"I suspect they need to quit building student apartments because one of these days, some of those are going to sit empty."

St. Romaine said there is no telling if MU will continue to grow at the same rate it has over the past few years.

"In the next ten or 20 years it's going to be difficult for anybody to look into their crystal ball and say what could potentially happen."

St. Romaine said the city still needs to fix the city's water, electrical and sewer lines to accommodate the new housing complexes. Columbia needs to come up with $6 million to fix the sewer lines alone.