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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Orchard Park still planning redevelopment after closure in 2014

The Orchard Park Apartments, one of the family housing units on campus, has been ready for renovation for the past two years, but no renovations have begun yet. (ANH-TRAM BUI / AGGIE)
The Orchard Park Apartments, one of the family housing units on campus, has been ready for renovation for the past two years, but no renovations have begun yet. (ANH-TRAM BUI / AGGIE)

All affordable family housing at UC Davis to be closed down in July 2016

The Solano Park and Orchard Park Apartments are both in the process of beginning renovations due to the wear and tear of the apartments after nearly 50 years of use.

Orchard Park, which is located in the northwest corner of UC Davis, closed in July of  2014 and remains closed today. However, Solano Park, which is located on UC Davis’ southeast corner, is scheduled to close in July of 2016 to begin renovation.

Both apartment complexes were created to provide affordable housing and a sense of community for students and their children in the 1960s.

According to Student Housing at UC Davis, Orchard Park was supposed to have new family and graduate student apartments built at its location, scheduled to open in fall of 2016.

But according to Vice Provost and Dean Jeff Gibeling, redevelopment is yet to begin due to concerns about the cost effectiveness of the change as well as the possibility of rent increases post-development. Thus, in June 2014, all redevelopment plans were halted in order to find a new planning approach to the apartments that would focus on the students’ concerns. Even though planning stopped, Orchard Park still closed on July 31, 2014.

“It wasn’t actually renovations. What we were initially talking about was the replacement of Orchard Park. It was based on an analysis that said it was much more cost effective to simply tear them down,” Gibeling said. “We wanted to get a long lifetime out of the buildings, which meant starting from scratch.”

According to Gibeling, the residents of Orchard Park and Solano Park Apartments didn’t respond well to the idea of demolition.

“The plan wasn’t very well-received by the community. After many discussions with students and administrators, the Chancellor said we were going to pause the planning process,” Gibeling said. “So we paused the planning process and created a different committee with much higher student representation to go through a different planning process. We had hoped it would take about six months and be done by the calendar year of 2014, but it wasn’t finished until May or June of 2015.”

No renovations have yet been decided. The committee of students Gibeling mentioned decided on the principles of what would be achieved in student-family housing, the level of amenities, the size and the affordability of the apartments and the features of the apartments. All of these issues are considered very important to students who have lived in the Orchard Park and Solano Park Apartments.

“If you listen to students who live there now or have lived there in the past, they very clearly describe the sense of community, a very strong sense of community. Everybody’s there together from all over the world,” Gibeling said. “People share food, they share taking care of each other’s children, the children play together. It’s like one enormous family. It has a special quality, and we wanted to understand what gave Orchard Park that quality. It’s more than just a building or a set of buildings. It’s much more special than that.”

While the initial goal for Orchard Park was to open two years after closing, no construction has actually begun yet. According to Gibeling, it will take at least two years after construction begins before the apartments will be reopened to the students. There is no concrete plan from architects or engineers that show exactly what will be renovated yet.

Currently, the students who would be living at the Orchard Park Apartments are living in either Solano Park or off-campus housing, which is more expensive, on average. While Orchard Park and Solano Park charged a little over $900 a month in rent, the costs of Russell Park, an off-campus alternative to Solano Park and Orchard Park, are significantly higher.

“We want to honor your request to transfer you to Solano Park due to the closure of Orchard Park, therefore, we will send you offers for any apartment size, location and floor,” said April Berryman, contract supervisor in UC Davis, in a letter to Orchard Park residents seven months before the closure.

The plan now is to reopen the Orchard Park Apartments in fall of 2018, and there are plans to discuss the renovations and redevelopment of Orchard Park.

“In the next few weeks, Graduate Studies will update on where the process is for redeveloping Orchard Park, including updated information on Solano Park and its closure schedule,” said Erica Vonasek-Eco, graduate student in biological systems engineering and the chair of the Chancellor’s Graduate and Professional Student Advisory Board.

Written by: Sangeetha Ramamurthy – campus@theaggie.org


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