New dorm marks Chapman University’s progress toward housing more students, improving neighbor relations
In 2015, Chapman University asked the city of Orange to permit it to increase the maximum student enrollment from 8,700 to 11,650.
This earned a huge backlash from Old Towne Orange residents frustrated with landlords renting single-family homes to transient students, and university officials subsequently withdrew the plan.
After creating a Neighborhood Advisory Committee that year, Chapman recognized there was a critical need to develop new student housing.
“We established a goal in the  strategic plan to house a minimum of 50% of our students within five years and will accomplish that two years ahead of schedule,” Chapman President Daniele Struppa wrote in a statement.
A $47.4-million building, named the K, will open Aug. 22.
The K is the second major housing project Chapman has opened to students in the last year.
In 2017, Chapman spent $150 million to buy the Chapman Grand apartments in Anaheim’s redevelopment area called the Platinum Triangle. University officials converted market-rate rentals into dorms for up to 900 students last year.
The K sits on what was a loading dock and motor pool area for the adjacent packing house that the Santiago Orange Growers Association built more than a century ago.
Santiago sold the packing house site in 1967 to the Villa Park Orchards Association. Chapman acquired the packing house and adjacent industrial buildings in the historic Cypress Street Barrio decades later.
In January 2018, construction crews demolished a large metal shade structure that stood where the K sits now. Chapman also moved two 1920s-era structures, a former truck maintenance building and fertilizer storage building, to the north side of the packing house.
Struppa announced at the annual State of the University Address in February that a European anonymous donor contributed $10 million toward the construction of the new residence hall.
Now, the K spans 123,562 square feet on about 1.3 acres at the northwest corner of Cypress Street and Palm Avenue — diagonally across from the Marion Knotts Studios, home of Chapman’s renowned Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
Each of their two-bedroom suites is equipped with its own air conditioning system that automatically shuts off when a window is opened. Laundry rooms on each floor also eliminate the need for students to drag dirty clothes into elevators and stairwells.
Like all Chapman residence halls, access is restricted around the clock to students and employees with keycards.
And students lucky enough to live on the top floor on the building’s west side will have a view of the Honda Center, Angel Stadium’s Giant A, and Disneyland’s fireworks.
It’s unlikely the K will satisfy neighborhood hardliners who argue that Chapman should provide housing to keep all of its students out of their neighborhood.
But Orange resident Brian Lochrie, who helped start the “Neighbors Say No” campaign that blocked Chapman’s proposal to grow enrollment, said the K is a step in the right direction.
“I hope that they understand that Chapman is located in a residential community that essentially land locks them in terms in how much they are able to grow,” Lochrie said.
Chapman still needs to publicly commit to an ultimate enrollment cap, he said.
“Until I hear that, I’m going to be concerned because it’s not just about the housing, it’s about setting some sort of an enrollment cap so the community in Old Towne doesn’t lose its character and integrity as a family neighborhood,” Lochrie said.
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