DIXON – The beleaguered Sauk Commons student housing complex could see some renewed interest and, officials hope, higher occupancy by the start of next school year.
Late last week, United Housing and Community Services Corp., a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, bought the complex, said Amy Viering, dean of community outreach for Sauk Valley Community College and executive director of the Sauk Foundation.
Sauk Valley Student Housing LLC, a nonprofit group created by the foundation, had owned the complex next door to the college.
It was built for about $7 million using tax-exempt revenue bonds and opened in fall 2005. Occupancy never came close to the 144-bed capacity, and the complex never was financially viable.
In February 2011, Sauk Valley Student Housing filed for bankruptcy. The corporation and its creditor, Harris Bank, sought a buyer or investor for the complex.
The buyer had a few options to finance the sale, Viering said, among them to ask that a local government issue bonds.
Last month, the Sterling City Council denied a request to issue up to $5 million in bonds to refinance Sauk Commons to take advantage of federal tax incentives. Council members had reservations about the request and its potential impact on the city and its reputation.
The buyer must have found another means to finance the sale, Viering said.
Sauk Valley Student Housing and the Sauk Foundation now have no financial or management responsibility to the student housing complex, she said.
The college, which never directly was affiliated with the complex, is glad the new buyer will continue to operate the facility for its intended purpose: student housing, she said.
For the foreseeable future, Best Management Onward Campus, a Madison, Wis.-based management company, will continue to manage the student housing complex, CEO William Levy said.
The company is glad that someone has a renewed interest in the complex, which has seen few upgrades since it opened more than 7 years ago, Levy said.
"They're going to put capital in, make some improvements, buy some furnishings."
The complex has 48 two- and four-bedroom, fully furnished apartments in two buildings. It also has a sports court, barbecue pavilion, and clubhouse with study rooms, a lounge and laundry room.
Sauk Commons is about 80 percent full with almost 80 students in available apartments, said Maurice Redwine, the on site manager. Some apartments are not available for rent because they need repairs, he said.
The change in hands and the likely improvements to the complex should spark a reinvigorated marketing campaign, Levy said.
The Sauk Valley Community College district is "huge," and more and more students – even those who could easily commute – are seeking that "campus-life experience" at 2-year colleges, he said.