Tower Village sale prompts troubling questions

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UD students walk through the Tower Village apartment complex on their way to class.

On Aug. 29, Tower Village — or as everybody calls it, Old Mill — ceased to belong to the University of Dallas. Trying to address its financial struggles, the university sold the apartment complex to SB Pacific for $20 million. The apartments are now owned by Centra Partners.

Like many students, I feel ambivalent about the sale of the Mill. On the one hand I recognize that UD’s dire financial situation poses an existential threat to the university itself and that any solution (aside from the abortive proposal of the “New College”) is preferable to none. I also look forward to the improvements the new owners have planned; the fitness center, cafe and exercise path — along with the more sorely needed pest control and pond care. This can only result in a better quality of life for residents of Old Mill.

On the other hand I find the control the university has ceded deeply concerning. Now that the university no longer owns the Mill, the Mill no longer exists for the sake of the university. The Mill no longer serves the students qua students, only its customers. That the two are the same (for now) is only a happy coincidence.

We can already see the effect of this split in the termination of the affordable housing tax credit program. Jana Mobarak, the regional supervisor for Centra, has assured us that “these programs will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis with their specific needs” — whatever that means.

Yet without a formal agreement, what is to prevent Centra from reneging on their promises, should the company have the financial incentive to do so? What exactly is to stop the tide of gentrification festering through Dallas from creeping into the Mill? Or from tearing the whole complex down for redevelopment? And were any of that to happen, what would become of the students who call the Mill their home?

We have no idea how Centra intends to run the Mill nor what they are willing to tolerate. It is a barely kept secret that the Mill’s night life is, courtesy of the administration, lightly governed. Why should Centra do the same? Indeed, if higher income tenants decide to move in, and if those tenants decide they don’t care much for rowdy college kids and their parties, why wouldn’t Centra start patrolling the Mill as the RAs do Madonna?

How probable is all of this? Who knows? But as of sale, it is all possible. I don’t doubt that what the administration did was necessary. But unfortunately, by signing away the rights to the Mill, the university has made it just another piece in the great game of corporate Monopoly.

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