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SLU’s Laclede Houses may face wrecking ball

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Saint Louis University recently announced the planned closure and demolition of the Laclede Houses at the end of the 2013 spring semester. The move has been met with resistance from residents of the Laclede Houses in the form of a petition. 

The Laclede Houses are a group of three apartment buildings located at 3741 Laclede Ave.

Easily identified by the blue awnings sitting above each doorway, they were originally acquired by SLU in 1999.

According to Joshua Walehwa, director of the Department of Housing and Residence Life, the main issue with the houses is quality, and the building was never intended for long-term housing. The houses experienced many renovations last summer. However the expense of constantly renovating the houses would be much greater than the worth of the building.

“At this point, the houses are in good enough condition to live in,” Walehwa said. “But the value of the houses compared to what it would cost to truly renovate them and put them on par with what our standards and expectations for housing are is way more expensive than the value of the houses.”

The apartments initially existed as a learning community for foreign language students. They were first used as housing for students in the Micah program in 2008.

The Micah program, which is the service-learning community on campus, provides housing for freshmen and sophomoroes in Marguerite Hall. The Micah students living in the Laclede Houses are all upperclassmen.

Since the Micah program took over the houses the number of Micah residents in the houses has increased, and currently all of the residents of the Laclede Houses are Micah students.

The Department of Housing and Residence Life hopes to have the Laclede Houses closed by the end of the academic year.

Laclede Houses residents were first informed of the planned closure in a meeting in October.

A message was posted on the Micah program’s Facebook page on Oct. 31 asking students to sign a petition and send in a memory that demonstrated students’ positive experiences in the houses or statements from  underclassmen about why they were looking forward to living in the houses.

Members of the Micah program submitted a petition to Housing and Residence Life against the closure of the Laclede Houses in an attempt to demonstrate the importance of the buildings to the Micah community.

“We just wanted the people making the decision to know what the houses mean to us,” Allison Walter, a Micah member and resident of the Laclede Houses, said.

Dawn Aldrich, the assistant director of Housing and Residence Life, along with Micah Program Coordinator Debbie Wilson and Micah Program Director Donald Stump, have been communicating with the students through emails and meetings about the future of the houses and potential Micah living spaces to replace the houses.

According to Walter, Residence Life has been very responsive to students’ concerns.

“While it seems that sadly, the houses cannot be saved,” Walter said, “We are hopeful to come to a solution that will allow the community we have put so much of ourselves into to continue to flourish.”

Many different options have been discussed as to what the Micah program can do for housing in the future.

“We’re committed to working closely with students to find the best options that can support their needs and that they’ll be satisfied with,” Walehwa said.

One new option that is in conversation is the West Locust Master Tenant building. Located near the Flying Cow on Locust Street, the space has potential to hold over 45 beds, Walehwa said.

The fate of the Laclede Houses space is still uncertain, though the plan is to have them closed once students move out in May and to eventually demolish te building.

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