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Orchard Downs houses variety of residents

Apartments+1801-1815+of+Orchard+Downs%2C+a+University-owned+apartment+complex+on+Orchard+Place+in+Urbana%2C+on+Nov.+29.
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Orchard Downs houses variety of residents

Apartments 1801-1815 of Orchard Downs, a University-owned apartment complex on Orchard Place in Urbana, on Nov. 29.

Apartments 1801-1815 of Orchard Downs, a University-owned apartment complex on Orchard Place in Urbana, on Nov. 29.

Gianna Sobieski

Apartments 1801-1815 of Orchard Downs, a University-owned apartment complex on Orchard Place in Urbana, on Nov. 29.

Gianna Sobieski

Gianna Sobieski

Apartments 1801-1815 of Orchard Downs, a University-owned apartment complex on Orchard Place in Urbana, on Nov. 29.

By Ciera Johnson, Staff Writer

Located on the southeast side of campus in Urbana, Orchard Downs is a housing complex intended to house undergraduate upperclassmen, graduate students, veterans and students with families.

“There are 685 apartments in Orchard Downs,” said Laura Brown, assistant director for administrative services for family housing at the University. “Currently, there (are) about 1200 residents (including leaseholders and any dependents) living in the Orchard Downs apartments.”

Orchard Downs has a small population due to the guidelines for obtaining housing there. Even though it is off campus, housing there is only open to University affiliates.

“You must be affiliated with the University as a graduate student, visiting scholar, staff member, faculty member or post-doc,” Brown said.

Given Orchard Downs was originally intended to provide family housing for graduate students, there are strict guidelines for undergraduate students seeking housing there.

“Undergraduates are eligible to live in Orchard Downs if they are living with family members (like a spouse, child or parents) or are old enough to be exempt from the first-year student residence hall requirement,” Brown said.

Orchard Downs offers multiple programs not only to accommodate its residents, but also to make their living experience enjoyable by fostering a community.

Emily Floess is a graduate student in Engineering at the University. She also completed her undergraduate degree at the University in Engineering.

Floess is currently an active member in the Orchard Downs Community, serving as a community aide.

As an undergraduate, she lived at PAR in the living-learning community of PAR Global Crossroads. She stayed at PAR throughout her four years as an undergraduate. However, Floess knew of Orchard Downs before becoming a graduate student because she grew up in the area. She remembers viewing Orchard Downs as a very internationally diverse place to live.

“There is an event every weekend, and a lot of them are educational,” Floess said. “Like the international food festival, they have a Chinese New Year’s celebration, so you can learn a lot about the world.”

Some students on campus also believe Orchard Downs is a great resource, which illustrates the University’s commitment to its students’ needs.  

One of these students is James Graessle, senior in Engineering and resident adviser for Allen Hall.

“It’s really nice that the University has family housing. Its just cool that even if (people) have children, the school would accommodate for them,” Graessle said.

Orchard Downs has many resources, including a preschool located in the Family & Graduate Housing Community Center that follows the University’s calendar.

Similar to having resident advisors in the dorms at the University, family and graduate housing has graduate assistants and community aides who work to foster a comfortable, inclusive community in Orchard Downs.

“(There are) three grad assistants who are a part of the department of social work … There’s (also) 13 community aides, so they help with a lot of programming,” Floess said. “They are responsible for neighborhood-wide events because they split Orchard Downs into different neighborhoods.”

While Orchard Downs serves as a good living environment for graduate students, veterans and students with families, some prefer to live closer to campus.

“Some people don’t like (being) that far from campus … although they have Goodwin-Green and so some people opt to stay there … I know a lot of graduate students like to stay in downtown Champaign because there is a lot going on downtown,” Floess said.

Not only is the proximity to campus desirable by some students on campus, but some students enjoy the dorms the University has to offer instead.

“Out of choice, I wouldn’t prefer it. I just like the dorms I’m in,” Graessle said.

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