The University of Memphis board of trustees unanimously approved a deal to work with Memphis municipal acquisitions to purchase the Gather on Southern.
When made official, the deal will make the two-building apartment complex an official on-campus housing option for the UofM and complement their existing housing options as a new apartment-style complex similar to Carpenter Complex.
â€œThis is a first in Tennessee,â€ UofM President M. David Rudd said. â€œNo other public university has done a partnership like this in Tennessee. As a result, we have vetted this very carefully, and ultimately, it has to go through the attorney general.â€
The meeting comes after a rough early winter during which The Gather had three major shooting and robbery incidents in the last month. Rudd said talks about purchasing the property have been ongoing over the last four months, and the crimes in the area had no impact on the decision to purchase the complex.
â€œActually, if you look at the crime statistics in this area, theyâ€™re down significantly every year,â€ Rudd said. â€œWe couldnâ€™t have our board meeting until we had done the vetting and evaluation of the opportunity.â€
The deal, Rudd said, will bring a much-needed new building to the UofM because many of the buildings, including the dorms, are older and uninteresting to students.
â€œOur average building age here is 57 years at the University,â€ Rudd said. â€œWe have not built the kind of housing that is attractive for students.â€
UofM Student Trustee Drew Gilmore raises a potentil issue the deal may cause students already living in the complex
â€œObviously, institutional rules are going to have some impact on the students staying there,â€ UofM CFO Raaj Kurapati said. â€œOur current housing rules do not allow for firearms and alcohol to be present. We believe some of the negative issues that weâ€™ve had in that neighborhood are because those policies cannot be enforced.â€
The board also acknowledged the complex would have major changes. For instance, the current ownership permits alcohol and firearms in the apartments.
â€œI think this is a really genius idea from the financial side and the universityâ€™s side and is really great for the student government board,â€ UofM Student Trustee Drew Gilmore said during the meeting. â€œMy concern is for the students that are there right now and how that transition will work going from independent housing to university housing, essentially. A lot of students that live there live there because they like to be close to campus but not necessarily be under the eye of the university.â€
Kurapati said although concern is warranted, the safety of the students living there should take priority over the freedom to have alcohol and firearms in the apartment. He assured Gilmore the university would do its best to give the residents of the Gather as much autonomy as possible.
Some parents of Gather residents also attended the meeting and are relieved the university is stepping in due to the recent crimes at the apartment complex.
â€œAfter the third week (my daughter) lived there, her roommate was robbed at gunpoint,â€ parent Debbie Wood said. â€œMy nightmare as a parent started right then ... I think itâ€™s a win-win for both the students and the university.â€
It is still unclear how the UofM will manage the apartments and what exact policies they can and will implement for them. The UofM will continue to work with the attorney general of Tennessee on the acquisition of the complex.