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CLC: Foundation purchases apartment buildings

A desire to provide housing for students led Central Lakes College to a solution conveniently located across the street from the college. The CLC Foundation closed a real estate purchase Friday on The Pines apartments, located at 1203 West Campus...

The Central Lakes College Foundation Friday purchases The Pines apartments, located at 1203 West Campus Drive in Brainerd. Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch
The Central Lakes College Foundation Friday purchases The Pines apartments, located at 1203 West Campus Drive in Brainerd. Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch

A desire to provide housing for students led Central Lakes College to a solution conveniently located across the street from the college.

The CLC Foundation closed a real estate purchase Friday on The Pines apartments, located at 1203 West Campus Drive in Brainerd.

The foundation bought The Pines for $2.1 million, which includes the two existing apartment buildings and two adjacent lots, so there's potential to develop more housing in the future, foundation executive director Jana Shogren said.

About three years ago, the idea to add a college-provided student housing option came up, Shogren said. To determine the need, the college surveyed students to find out if there were enough housing options for students already available. The survey showed students saw a lack of affordable housing options, as well as options that weren't desirable, she said.

"They just wanted to live somewhere where they felt safe," Shogren said.

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Walkability also came up as a common issue for students, Shogren said. Many students don't have access to transportation, she said, so being able to walk to campus is important. Walkability was especially an issue for students who came to CLC from places more than 60 miles away from CLC.

Some students brought up the possibility of housing that had an on-campus feel, to have the experience of living on campus, Shogren said.

Multiple questions were asked in the ensuing years, Shogren said, like whether the CLC Foundation or the college itself should tackle the issue. There was also discussion about building new housing versus acquiring existing buildings.

"It was always kind of a timing thing," Shogren said.

At the crux of the issue was finding an option that worked for students while also generating enough revenue to stay afloat, Shogren said. It's partly how the foundation landed on The Pines as the best option, she said, as it just wasn't feasible to build new housing. Word on the street was CLC was looking at housing, she said, so the sellers approached the college about buying The Pines.

The foundation contracted with Widseth Smith Nolting to ensure The Pines buildings were a sound investment, Shogren said. The firm reported the buildings were solid, she said, and had no immediate renovation needs. However, the college will roll out some renovations and updates over the upcoming two years.

"We want it to be the best option for students," Shogren said.

Filling a need

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Offering a student housing option is congruent with the college's mission of building futures for students, CLC President Hara Charlier said. Building futures starts with student success, which can't happen if a student doesn't have their basic need for housing covered, she said.

"There, truthfully, are a number of our students who don't have high-quality, local housing," Charlier said.

Student housing ties into the college's goal of providing an entire student experience, Charlier said. Students can now have good housing, which connects them further with the college, she said.

"We know that every time we build another connection, that engagement strengthens," Charlier said. "And our students are much more likely to be successful."

Teams at the college are working to determine what the college's obligations are when it comes to providing housing, Charlier said. This will entail adding some basic security features in the parking lot and increasing student life offerings, so students have options for things to do during the evening or on the weekend. The college is also looking at the residential assistant model at the dorms, "so we've got students in those dorms and they have a terrific experience," she said.

The foundation has talked with the college about structuring leases to work best for students, Shogren said. To that end, the college will offer semester-long leases, month-to-month leases and will provide incentives for students who pay their rent a few days early.

"We know it's hard, a high number of our students are living in poverty," Shogren said. "So we want to lessen the barriers."

An added bonus of acquiring The Pines means the college's Upward Bound summer program with high school students will be able to happen at CLC, Shogren said. In the past, the program took place at other campuses, because of the lack of housing at CLC. The Upward Bound program is designed to help students successfully complete high school and go on to be successful in college.

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"How great for the students who live in the area to get to experience CLC for six weeks and experience our housing option here," Shogren said.

A new direction

Previously, the foundation had focused more on providing scholarships for students, so purchasing The Pines represents an expansion of the foundation's mission, Shogren said.

Students have a lot of choices for higher education now, Charlier said, and the ability to offer student housing shows CLC is able to offer a full student experience.

"We have tremendous student life, great athletics," Charlier said. "And now we'll have housing in addition to some very exciting things happening in the classroom."

The Pines will be able to house about 100 students, with the larger main building already set up like a college dormitory, Shogren said. Residents rent a private bedroom while sharing living and kitchen spaces with other roommates.

The smaller apartment building features a handful of more traditional two-bedroom apartments and is home to a couple of CLC faculty members, she said. In the future, those apartments might serve as a good option for students with families.
The foundation will honor all the existing leases at The Pines, Shogren said, which means no one has to move out because of the sale. The apartments already consist almost entirely of students, she said.

"It should be a very seamless transition for all the current residents," Charlier said.

The Pines apartments at 1203 West Campus Drive will offer housing for more than 100 Central Lakes College students. The CLC Foundation Friday purchased the building. Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch
The Pines apartments at 1203 West Campus Drive will offer housing for more than 100 Central Lakes College students. The CLC Foundation Friday purchased the building. Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch

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