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On campus student housing still possible for CLC

Student housing is still a possibility for Central Lakes College’s Brainerd campus.

A design firm was recently named to sketch out ideas of what a dorm unit could look like. But there are still some key steps to complete before those drawings can come to life, said Pam Thomsen, executive director of the Central Lakes College Foundation.

Most important is getting a land lease for the property, which is owned by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU).

Serious talk of building student housing started late last year after the Central Lakes College Foundation Board of Directors unanimously voted to form a committee to further research and analyze the idea of building a 150-200 housing unit for students.

That move was after a feasibility study showed building student housing would be warranted for the school.

In the study by Maxfield Research, 62.1 percent of respondents said they “were very interested or somewhat interested in living in student housing sharing a unit with one, two, or three people.”

Participants also said it was difficult to find suitable, affordable housing in the Brainerd and Staples areas.

Since an exact project description hasn’t been laid out, the cost is hard to predict, Thomsen said. Colleges throughout the state have spent $7 million to $21 million on student housing. Similarly, rent for a unit could range from $450-850 a month for the furnished rooms.

Since the committee was formed, it determined that best location for a dorm is at the northeast corner at the junction of College Drive and Highland Scenic Road. Since that property is owned by MnSCU, CLC must obtain a land lease to build on it.

Thomsen said that MnSCU is supportive of the idea, but it just takes time to go through the process of getting the lease.

Should that land not be able to be used for the student housing, the committee will have to look for other locations. There were five sites looked at, but that one was rated the highest by the committee.

The committee next needs to see designs.

A request for proposals (RFP) for architecture and design work went out in January. Five firms applied and Widseth Smith Nolting of Baxter was chosen by the committee.

The firm was chosen based on evaluations from the committee. The college has also worked with the firm in the past and it was the only local one to return an RFP, Thomsen said.

Thomsen hopes that the first designs of a dorm could come to life in a couple of months.

Still, it’s too early to say if CLC will definitely build student housing.

“We can’t say for sure that there will be housing,” Thomsen said. “We have to look at affordability. The project has to be affordable, meet student needs and still pay for itself. A lot of things are in the air and it’s all moving along at once.”

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at