Housing Review: UPA’s location is unbeatable, if you can get over its quirks

I chose University Place Apartments simply because it was a place to live.

You’ve probably seen it before. The unassuming apartment building stands on the edge of campus, at the corner of University and College avenues. At the end of my freshman year, my roommate and I didn’t want to think too hard about our future living arrangements. We figured anything was going to be better than living in the residence halls. UPA seemed good enough, so we hastily signed our leases and dropped the subject.

Leaving the comforts of Schurz Hall for UPA was a difficult adjustment, and at first, it felt like we had checked out of the Holiday Inn and moved into a shabby roadside motel. The walls are crumbly, the heat doesn’t always work, and the long, dimly lit hallways can be kind of creepy.

But as the semester went on, I found a lot to like about living at University Place — especially the location. Situated between campus and downtown, the accessible location means that almost everything is within walking distance. A trip to Memorial Union or Ellis Library can be made in fewer than five minutes, which is perfect for when you have to get away from noisy neighbors or distracting roommates to study. Feeling hungry instead? Shakespeare’s Pizza is only two blocks away.

But with any apartment, there are the quirks. Sometimes the astringent smell of curry sauce and pot smoke can be nauseating, but at least there aren’t any RAs to worry about. And while the kitchen provides barely enough room for two people to use it at the same time, it’s much better than waiting in line for On Stage at Plaza 900.

Under close inspection, the crudely painted walls in my bedroom contain the outlines of foam stars and duct tape, expertly preserved under layers and layers of faded white paint. Brushing my teeth one night, I stared at the cracked faux-marble countertop in my bathroom and started to wonder about the history of these apartments, and I did a little research.

Built in 1966, the building, then called “Tiger Towers,” was one of the first co-ed student housing options at MU. Eventually it took on new owners, but there is still an MU computer lab in the lobby, and there are some MU offices on the first floor. Even though the traditional black and gold decor is long gone, some things seem to have stood the test of time. In a 1976 story about former basketball player Jim Kennedy, Sports Illustrated writer John Underwood wrote:

“On some nights, Kennedy said, the smells of various ethnic dishes — curry, collard greens — mingle in the halls. Sometimes it is not the cooking alone. Sometimes, he says, you can get a high ‘just walking down the hall.’ ”

I guess some things never change.

If you don’t mind the grungy interior, UPA can be a really great place to live. The staff is very friendly and helpful, and maintenance is quick to fix things. If you’re looking to move out of a residence hall but still want to live close to campus, University Place Apartments might be a good place for you.

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