Over the next century, thousands of future University of Utah students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be comfortably housed on campus and well cared for as they learn, thanks to a private land deal expected to generate $1 billion in student aid.
Where they will live is Ivory University House, a 552-unit community with green space spread across four buildings on the southwest corner of South Campus Drive and Mario Capecchi Drive, a lively intersection on a car-focused campus as desperate as the rest of Salt City Lake for new housing.
An old-fashioned saint’s church has been demolished and scrapped from the site, which on Friday was filled with enthusiastic people, building materials and red and white balloons draped over excavation equipment ready to pierce the bedrock.
The project at approximately 1780 E. South Campus Drive will span 5.6 acres of the approximately 31 acres owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is touted as a gift that will continue to give, thanks to an innovative collaboration between the U. Church and the Clark and Christine Ivory Trust.
Big Wheels has been on the cutting edge of student housing development in the United States for nearly 10 years, and by 2023, it will be the first building of a unique, permanently funded housing complex at the home of the University of Utah.
The apartments are designed as luxury digs by most standards, with well-appointed features, communal spaces, courtyards, concern for safety and wellness and plenty of student support, the apartments are also being developed so that their proceeds can be donated to generate financial support for the many students who live in them.
“This would be a great place, a great place to live,” said Clark Ivory, a former US board member and trustee, but high-end studios “wouldn’t be filled with a bunch of rich kids.
“Our goal is to ensure that at least 25% of students at Ivory University House will come from the most financially challenged families,” he said. The United States confirmed that these children will also receive housing assistance to help them live there.
“We can’t wait to see it thrive,” said Ivory, who also heads Ivory Homes, Utah’s largest home builder. He added that with “a dire need during the pandemic”, the family charity “is now prioritizing student housing”.
Keep students on campus – with more housing
But, while US President Taylor Randall was visibly happy, he quipped to a crowd of church leaders, real estate executives, American administrators and elected officials gathered at Friday’s event to celebrate, “Wait! That’s not all!”
He called Ivory University House “really innovative” and “more than just a housing project” — while Randall said he worries daily about students on the 3,400-a-meter housing waiting list, with nearly 4,400 units now on campus and 1, 682 units to be built by 2024.
Randall said the partnerships behind Ivory University House are squarely aimed at helping mitigate that crisis, as the US attempts to evolve away from being a “commuter campus” and toward a new, more housing model loosely referred to as “University Town.”
Students who commit to living on campus do 10% better on their degrees, the US President added – “Trust me on this” – and said the new 552 rooms at Ivory University House were an important step toward making this change in the long run.
The major players behind the new housing project have toured the country in recent years in search of the right funding model to make it happen and always, which Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall described as one of its most notable features, along with creating a pipeline of future thinkers and leaders.
“Think of the permanent and catalytic projects they will create in Utah and around the world,” the mayor said. “This is more than just affordable housing, and so much more.”
The role of the LDS Church in the project
All but a few children of the 150 or so people who attended the event on Friday will likely still have passed their lives due to the project’s approach to funding and the philanthropy behind it.
The LDS Church is essentially donating the former church site for 99 years, under a so-called land lease, on a package that Archbishop Gerald Cousse referred to as “very strategic for the campus.”
With the idea emerging, the church grounds allowed it to play a key role in “a vision that will bless the lives of many people,” Kossi said, with a high-quality, spiritually inspiring and safe environment, “and also a place where people will find a stimulating environment that will help them pursue their studies.”
Depicting the residential environment as a form of elevated living, Cousy said Church President Russell Nelson, who is also a US graduate, and other Latter-day Saint leaders were “excited about it” and found the project inspiring.
“There is full support out there,” said Koseh, who oversees the temple’s massive financial, real estate, investment and philanthropic operations.
The Ivory Trust is donating $24 million toward the kind of annuity that supports the long-term deal — plus $6 million in seed funding for programs aimed at helping students who live in apartments succeed in school — and that’s of course where the states are United. It also comes with what will be called a “Complete U.”
This is a related plan that began with ivory donations and was crafted by the United States to keep more students on campus and in classrooms year-round.
Overall, the base deal for Ivory University House will provide funds to assist up to 50,000 students over the years with housing and nearly double that number will benefit from the resulting scholarships, housing stipends and internships. By 2025, it will generate at least $1 million annually in student support, eventually reaching $1 billion over its lifetime.
Although they operate under the same general rules as other residential halls in the United States, the condominiums will be different in other ways.
Smoking, drug use and overnight stays will be prohibited for guests, as in other dorms, but the property will be privately owned by Ivory University House and managed by the property manager. Students who are eligible to live in studio apartments will sign one-year rental contracts. Three-quarters of them will pay market-rate rents, while the other quarter will receive housing stipends and other aid.
The new housing will also be closely linked to new initiatives to assist students, both financially and in a healthy living environment designed to help them succeed in an inclusive manner. This approach goes far beyond “focusing just on achievement and money and those kinds of things,” says Kristine Ivory, Clark Ivory’s wife and partner at Family Trust Management.
She described it as “a place where spiritual life is respected, academic pursuit is supported, psychological needs are addressed, and physical discipline is expected.“
The apartments will have private bathrooms, kitchenettes, large windows, wooden floors and study areas, she added. Each building will also contain gathering spaces, a wellness center, and activities such as meditation, yoga, art studios, video and television arcades, kitchen, community rooms, and more.
“These are incredible amenities I would be very happy to move into,” said Kristen Ivory.