Butler University planning apartment-style student housing for upperclassmen, grad students

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A concept rendering of apartment style student housing planned by Butler University. (Image courtesy of Butler University)

Butler University is pursuing a plan to build apartment-style housing on its campus to accommodate juniors, seniors, graduate students and alumni.

While the university has not finalized details of such a project—including total units, location, design or cost—it is in conversation with multiple developers about building the housing. University officials hopes to secure board of trustees approval for the project by the end of the year.

It likely would be built in phases, with the first completed by summer 2026, according to a media release from the university on Tuesday.

“Although students aren’t required to live on campus during their senior year, we consistently hear from many students and families expressing a desire to do so,” Frank E. Ross, III, Butler’s Vice President of Student Affairs, said in the release. “There simply isn’t enough housing in the neighborhoods surrounding campus to accommodate everyone, and they are mostly older homes that don’t offer modern living amenities that students desire.”

The university completed a survey of its current students in the fall about their interest in more on-campus housing to fill in gaps in the Butler-Tarkington housing market. The survey found students wanted private bedrooms, large closets, and open floor plans, along with outdoor entertainment spaces similar to those that can be found in higher-end communities across Indianapolis.

The school decided to share its intentions for the project on Tuesday because many students and their families opt to secure off-campus housing leases for their junior and senior years during their first year at the school, due to high demand. Butler leaders believe by sharing the plan now, families may be able to save time and money.

“We are designing housing for students who want the independence of apartment living, but also want to have access to campus amenities and to remain part of our safe, vibrant campus community,” Ross said. “Additionally, students will no longer need to commit to an off-campus housing lease years in advance.”

Any project would require city rezoning or zoning variances, which falls under the purview of the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development and the Metropolitan Development Commission.

Butler has three potential sites in mind for the project, according to a university official with knowledge of the plan. However, school officials declined to specify those locations, due to the nature of conversations with prospective developers.

The university owns several developable acres on the periphery of its core campus. Ross Hall, a dormitory that opened in 1954, has been vacant since the coronavirus pandemic and is in line for demolition or reuse.

Butler also owns the Christian Theological Seminary at 42nd Street and Haughey Avenue, which has some undeveloped land; as well as a former fraternity house near Michigan Road.

Butler in mid-2023 finished improvements to Residential College, a dormitory for nearly 500 first-year students that hasn’t been renovated since it opened in 1988. In 2018, it opened the 647-bed Irvington House, which is also for first-year students. Fairview House, a 633-bed facility for sophomores, opened in 2016.

The investments in housing are among many that have been made in the campus in recent years. Butler is spending $100 million to renovate and expand its sciences complex, and in 2022 developed an esports facility.

It has also seen steady enrollment in recent years, with 5,763 students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate courses in Fall 2023.

“Over the past several months, we’ve had productive discussions with the other neighborhood anchor institutions, potential funders, community partners, and a variety of interested stakeholders about the ways in which future development on Butler’s campus could also benefit the Midtown area,” Butler University President James Danko said in written comments.

“Butler is going to continue to invest, and I think others are willing to join us in enhancing the Butler campus and surrounding community into one of the most desirable places in Indianapolis to live and visit,” he said.

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