The future of Augustana theme houses, apartments


The university demolished two theme houses this summer to create space for future housing projects. The demolition raises questions about the future of theme housing and other housing options students can look forward to.

The university tore down houses Hillsboro and Loki on Summit Avenue to make room for more apartment-style housing similar to the Balcer and Nelsen Apartments, Corey Kopp, director of Campus Life, said.

Kopp said theme housing was introduced on campus nearly 20 years ago as short-term housing until the university could find a long-term solution.

He noted that the general wear and tear of students living habits erodes the houses faster than dorms or apartments.

“Student living is hard living,” Kopp said. “That’s why they build residence halls out of bricks and cinder blocks—because they last—and the theme houses just aren’t built to do that.”

However, some students, such as senior Bailey Hilgenkamp, feel that theme houses should be protected because they provide more benefits than dorms or apartments.

“Nobody bothers you and you don’t have neighbors,” Hilgenkamp said.

Hilgenkamp said in theme houses there is no need to share washers, dryers or a wall with a neighbor as one would in dorms or apartment-style housing.

Senior Grace Fjellanger, a resident of Nelsen Apartments, said her “stress level went from a thousand to fifty” when she moved out of the dorms and into the apartments.

Fjellanger also said that she and her roommates did look into a theme house as a possible option their junior year but were deterred by the number of issues that can come with the houses.

In the past, theme houses have faced many maintenance and flooding problems.

Both Campus House and Global Education House have flooded in the past, and plumbing malfunctions were so severe at Hillsboro House last year that residents had to move out temporarily while they were fixed.

Senior Nicole Mutchler, a resident of Valhalla House, said theme houses are a great teaching tool for upperclassmen before they eventually move into their own houses in the future.

Mutchler said she has learned many things during her two years in theme housing.

“It’s a really good stepping stone,” Mutchler said. “You learn how to take care of a house and learn how to be a little bit more independent.”

Mutchler also said she learned invaluable communication skills by living with five other people, as well as how to be understanding of other living habits.  

Additionally, the university is looking to diversify living options further through the proposed North Village.

Situated on University Place, the North Village would create a new style of living to campus in the next five to ten years. This proposition, Kopp said, would create “a hybrid between apartments and theme houses.”

The North Village looks to solve some of the housing problems facing campus associate director of Campus Life Whitney Brown said. The apartments would be able to house 32 to 40 people. Theme houses can house 3 to 15 people, Brown said.


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