University to buy former nursing home for dorms

Next fall, move-in day at Northern Kentucky University will be a little different for about 450 students.

Instead of fighting traffic on campus and searching for a parking spot, these students will be almost a mile away, moving into their new dorm on Martha Lane Collins Boulevard.

According to University Housing Director Matt Brown, NKU plans to purchase the former Lakeside Heights Nursing Center, which closed in April due to a state investigation on allegations of neglect and abuse.

Though the details of the sale are undisclosed, Brown said he hopes to close on the property before the end of the semester with funds either from the state or a private lender.

“That’s where the uncertainty comes from,” he said. “There is an absolute need here at NKU for more student housing.”

Brown is hoping Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher will allocate some of the estimated $279 million in the commonwealth’s budget for the project. Fletcher cut proposed funding to build a new residential building last year.

After the funding cut last year, Brown began to look for alternatives to constructing a new dorm, and that’s when he found Lakeside.

“It’s really fortuitous that this property came up,” he said. “It’s either a nursing home or a residential hall… and really there’s not much difference. The crazy idea was that maybe we could use it for student housing.”

Brown estimated it will save about $10 million by purchasing the former nursing home and renovating it, rather than building a brand new hall. There are also plans to add an additional 200 parking spots to the lot. The hall will be the largest residential facility owned by NKU, with second being the the University Suites, which houses about 369 students.

The disadvantage to the purchase, however, is its distance from campus. The hall would be located about three-quarters of a mile from NKU, meaning students would either have to walk, drive or take the TANK bus, which has stops at the nursing home and several places on campus.

“We want students to not fight for a parking spot,” Brown said.

Rather than paying each time to ride the bus, Brown hopes to work with the company to include bus prices in the cost of living at the facility. Also, Brown anticipates the room and boarding costs to be comparable to living at the University Suites, which is $1,990 for a room with a roommate.

Brown also envisions the living style to be similar to the University Suites, with several rooms having either a full bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower, or a half bathroom with only a toilet and sink. Showers would be available in each hall for rooms without them.

The rooms at the facility would also be the largest offered by NKU, being about 16-by-16 feet or 17-by-17 feet, not including closet or bathroom space. The dining hall is in the same building, which will be charted by Chartwells.

Brown is also pleased with the sense of community he thinks students will feel by having less than 20 students in each wing and seeing the same groups of people during each meal.

“The beauty is you could come down for breakfast in your pajamas,” Brown said.