As FAU adds more on-campus housing, Boca Raton considers where else students can live

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BOCA RATON — As Florida Atlantic University keeps drawing more students to Boca Raton, the demand for student housing is rising.

The disparity in students to on-campus housing has only grown as the student population grew from about 10,000 in 1990 to over 30,000 today. The university has plans to offer more on-campus housing, but it remains to be seen whether students will get a broader selection of places to live off campus.

A proposed 182-apartment community is the latest proposal that failed to draw the city’s support. The project, which called for being built across 12 acres at 2500 Northwest Fifth Avenue, would’ve been called “Liv on 5th.”

It needed four “yes” votes from Boca’s City Council for the necessary zoning change, but it only received three votes recently, with Mayor Scott Singer and Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke voting against it.

Singer said they were concerned about allowing a new development with so many people, one that would’ve been built near single-family homes. The city’s staff “recommended against it because of the incompatibility of having the highest residential zoning category, which we haven’t placed anywhere near there, next to single-family neighborhoods,” Singer said. “It was too dense for the site.”

The developer of the proposed project, Corvue, of Chicago, did not respond to request for comment and an attorney for the project said she did not know how the company planned to move forward.

Innovation Village Apartments North on the Florida Atlantic University Campus on Thursday, June 3, 2021. A new off-campus student housing project failed to get enough votes from the Boca Raton City Council.

Innovation Village Apartments North on the Florida Atlantic University Campus on Thursday, June 3, 2021. A new off-campus student housing project failed to get enough votes from the Boca Raton City Council. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Corvue has built upscale student housing developments in Alabama, Arizona, California, Michigan, Oregon and Washington, as well as a multifamily community in Daytona Beach, Florida.

FAU’s Boca Raton campus has 4,120 beds, according to university spokeswoman Lisa Metcalf. With most students taking classes at the Boca campus, a need for more housing options has arisen.

A new residential building is expected to be built by August, which will offer 600 more beds and the university is working with the city to add 8,000 more over the next decade, according to Metcalf.

Off-campus housing offers an alternative, which is typically cheaper than dorms, but requires commuting.

FAU “generally neither supports nor opposes private off-campus development,” Metcalf said, but “believes on-campus housing is the safest option for its students, and is one of the most effective ways to enhance residential and campus life.”

Looking toward the future

City councilman Andy Thomson, however, is a big advocate for expanding student housing options and expressed disappointment that Liv on 5th won’t be going up, as it was proposed.

He said it’s essential to increase housing options near FAU to cut down on traffic in and around the city.

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“The student housing situation, whether it’s FAU or Lynn [University] is a problem,” Thomson said. “Rather than letting that problem control us and continue to take over our neighborhoods and our multi-family residential buildings, I thought it was best to control the problem ourselves, and that involves making accommodations for off-campus student housing.”

Thomson and Singer agree, however, that more needs to be done to create a student-friendly atmosphere, with more housing, food and retail options.

Both said they hope the 20th Street corridor, which leads to one of FAU’s entrances, will provide a place for that.

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