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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. Though the houses experienced many renovations last summer the expense of constantly renovating them would be much greater than their worth

“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 and they have operated as housing for the Micah program since 2008.

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

House residents were first informed of the planned closure in a meeting in October, and the Department of Housing and Residence Life hopes to have the apartments closed by the end of the academic year.

A message was posted on the Micah program’s Facebook page on Oct. 31 in response to the announcement 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. Micah members have since 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 their 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 alternate Micah living spaces.

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

“While it seems that sadly the houses cannot be saved, 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,” Walter said.

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 current plan would have them closed once students move out in May and to eventually demolish the building.

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