The University at Buffalo, which has long been a commuter campus though its planners envisioned a residential college, took the first step toward fulfilling that goal by officially opening off-campus housing for 400 graduate students Wednesday.
"We haven't built any housing for students in 25 years," said UB President William R. Greiner. "A lot of our students would like to live on or approximate to the (Amherst) campus."
The new 13-building, 115-unit complex rests on land owned by the university's private development arm, the UB Foundation, off Sweet Home and Chestnut Ridge roads in Amherst.
Every apartment has been rented, said Dennis R. Black, vice president for student affairs, and there is a waiting list.
The $8 million project, which was financed privately, is named Flickinger Court, in honor of the late businessman and philanthropist Burt P. Flickinger Jr.
Greiner said that in order for UB to compete for top-level students, it must offer newer, apartment-style housing.
With more on-campus housing, Black said, more students will be able to participate in social and extracurricular activities.
The next housing slated to be built by the university is 150 student apartment units on the North Campus, which will house more than 620 students and cost $18 million to $19 million. It is expected to be finished by fall 1999.
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, and University District Councilman Kevin J. Helfer in the past have raised concerns that if the university continues to build housing on and near its Amherst campus, large numbers of undergraduate students will leave the University Heights area.
At past public forums, officials and residents have expressed fears that the neighborhood surrounding the South Campus at Main Street and Bailey Avenue would not survive a mass exodus of UB students.
Greiner said the university plans to build more undergraduate housing on and near the Amherst campus because that is where the undergraduate academic program is centered.
However, he said the university would not abandon the University Heights area because more graduate and professional students -- particularly in the health sciences -- would live near the older South Campus as on- and off-campus housing is renovated.
"I'm a major proponent of having activities on South Campus," said Naniette Coleman, president of the undergraduate student government. "We started on South Campus, and you can't forget where you came from. In the same breath, I think the graduate housing offers a lot to the university."
Two of the first graduate students to move into the Amherst housing complex are David Forgues and Justin Dockswell, both 23, who said they are happy with their two-bedroom apartment.
The apartment is clean and bright, with walls freshly painted white, and looks nothing like a typically well-worn students' residence. Like every apartment in the complex, it has its own washer and dryer, access to the university's computer network and is hooked up to its cable system. Rent, which included bedroom furniture, is $725 a month.