New twist on off-campus housing

By Mandy Treccia

Students have a new off-campus housing option this fall with the opening of Dwight Lofts, 642 S. Clark St., just five blocks west of Columbia’s campus.

Dwight offers several loft options for students to choose from, including two-bedroom singles, two-bedroom doubles, four-bedroom singles and four-bedroom doubles. The rooms vary in size and some units are considered “VIP” rooms, which are large enough to accommodate a pool table provided by Dwight Lofts.

Prices range from $875 to $1,205 per month, with Internet, cable, gas, water, sewer and trash removal included. The apartments are fully furnished and each includes a 42-inch flat panel HDTV in the living room.

General manager Mitchell Smith said the pricing structure was set up so Dwight Lofts has something for every student.

“It depends on what it is that you’re looking for, what you can afford and what you like,” Smith said. “It gives students options.”

Freshman theater major Robby Mendoza said he likes the vibe at Dwight Lofts and that the building was once a Chicago printmaking building. He also likes the furniture and the minimalist feel of the space, but he said his favorite room is the kitchen because he loves cooking his own meals.

Similar to on-campus housing, Dwight Lofts has security on duty at the front desk 24/7. Residents scan their key cards as they enter into the building, and all of the common areas are under video surveillance.

“We try to run the building so it is a step between being out of the residence halls but not quite being on their own yet,” Smith said. “It’s the best of both worlds. You still have the security and the community assistants that live in the building and plan events.”

Ryan DePesa, a junior film and video major, is living at Dwight Lofts as a community assistant after previously living in the University Center, 525 S. State St., for two years and said Dwight is a step up because he is treated like an adult there.

“We do not have to enforce any specific school codes so you are given more freedom and responsibilities,” DePesa said. “I feel this will smooth the transition from campus living to the ‘real world.'”

Since Dwight is privately owned and professionally managed by the Scion Group, they are not governed by Columbia’s Residence Life and community assistants are not hired by Columbia.

Dwight is open to other schools throughout the area and currently has residents from Flashpoint, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Roosevelt University and East West University.

Dwight residents have a gym, a laundry facility and several lounge areas that include wireless Internet, pool tables, study areas and an outdoor seating area.

There’s also a lounge that caters to student artists with a large working space, sinks, storage lockers and supply rentals.

The music room has two “whisper” rooms that allow students to practice with their instruments or band and not disturb others.

“The 11th-floor sky lounge alone trumps any common area I’ve ever been to on the Columbia campus,” DePesa said. “It has every amenity you can think of.”

Currently, there are 450 residents at Dwight Lofts, and the building can accommodate almost 700. Smith expects the building to be completely full by the next academic year.