Dozers Tuesday were demolishing an aging apartment complex and a handful of old houses on Speight Avenue near the Baylor University campus, where a private group will build a multimillion-dollar student housing community that includes a seven-story parking garage.

Called the View, it will feature 257 apartment units and bedrooms for 718 occupants, in addition to features such as a swimming pool with cabana lounges, a clubhouse with social lounges, an outdoor barbecue area and Internet cafe. It is scheduled to open in fall 2014.

“It will be the largest privately owned student housing complex within walking distance of campus,” said Brad Copeland with Dallas-based Copeland Commercial LLC, which is placing the View near his alma mater, along with New Jersey-based University Student Living LLC.

The View will be be built on about four acres bounded by South 10th and South 11th streets, Speight Avenue and an alley at the rear of the property. Old mattresses, debris and the remnants of the old Varsity Square apartments and two-story homes littered the ground Tuesday in the wake of machines.

“I lived in Varsity Square about three weeks, and then

I found a note on my door telling me they were tearing it down and I would need to move. When this other place gets built, I think they should move me back,” said Stephanie Evans, 37, watching from nearby Commodore Condominums.

Seriously, she added, “something needs to be done to upgrade this area. We have a few people around causing problems. I used to walk to H-E-B, but no more.”

Copeland said he bought the land from Bear Waco Land Investors, which acquired it from businessman Joe Phipps, owner of University Rentals and several apartment complexes between South Seventh and South 12th streets.
Copeland said he has worked about 18 months to make the View a reality.

“Baylor is not involved and is not the owner in any way, shape or form,” Copeland said. “But we are making sure the architectural design will blend in with the campus buildings. We wanted Baylor to be excited about it, and we have their full support.”

Baylor spokeswoman 
Lori Fogleman said, “We are supportive of those who invest in development near our campus and around our city.”

Residential campus

The university has said it wants Baylor to become more of a residential campus, with students living as close to their classes as possible. To that end, it built the North Village and Brooks Village complexes in 2004 and 2007, respectively, which can accommodate 1,300 students between them.

Meanwhile, East Village is scheduled to open in the fall and will provide living units for 700 students.

Carbajal Realty, which managed some of the properties going down to make room for the View, said they had 129 occupants.

Phipps described the View as “high-scale,” and said he does not see it competing with his projects that likely carry lower rental rates.

“I’m inclined to see it more in line with Baylor’s dorms,” Phipps said. “This is going to be quite an expensive project, with that garage essentially surrounded by the apartments. This is the kind of design you see in larger cities, but I’m sure they have done market surveys.”

Asked if Baylor is getting overbuilt with student housing, Phipps said enrollment is growing steadily but not dramatically.

“If it gets 200 more students a year, that would mean a three-year fill-up for the View, if they all go there,” Phipps said.

Copeland would not divulge the price of the project, nor would he speculate on rental rates, with the opening still more than a year away. Sources in the construction industry said it is common for parking garages alone to cost $10,000 to $12,000 per space, and the View will have more than 700.

Kaitlin West, 19, a track athlete at Baylor who can watch the View take shape from her driveway, said she regrets seeing people lose their living space.

“But I think the View can become an asset to the neighborhood,” she said. “It’s close enough to walk to campus and within the Baylor bubble.”

Jeff Wall, director of housing and community development for the city of Waco, said the arrival of the View could serve as an incentive to other property owners in the neighborhood to consider improvements to their apartments and rental homes.

“The only thing that would worry me is if developers are interfering with the lifestyle of people with homesteads, who want to live in that area with limited disruption,” Wall said. “But as I understand it, this area already is heavily occupied by rental properties.”

Commercial corridor

The View will open within a short stroll of the South 12th Street commercial corridor, home to H-E-B, Domino’s Pizza, Shorty’s Pizza Shack, and Terry & Jo’s Food For Thought, among others.

It will have a brick veneer and attractive landscaping, Copeland said, and will include a mixture of bedroom units with one, two or four bedrooms, each fully furnished and designed with open living spaces, full kitchens and one full bath per bedroom. It will have parking spaces for residents within the garage, and extra spaces for visitors and guests.

Common areas will have multiple large-screen TVs, a fitness center and tanning facilities.

“Our approach to the development of well-designed, purpose-built student living is that it should benefit the entire community,” said Joseph M. Coyle, president of University Student Living, which owns more than 45,000 multifamily units in 33 states.

“Students have improved housing options, which reflects well on the university, and our commitment to quality ensures an attractive, sustainable asset that enhances the neighborhood.”

Lauren Williamson, 22, who is attending Baylor Law School and lives next door to the View site, said she was heartened to hear it will have an upscale look and feel.

“The outside lighting they’ve mentioned sounds cool to me. It’s pretty dark around here at times, and we have had a problem with car break-ins,” Williamson said.