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Apartments approach completion near SUNY Potsdam

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POTSDAM — Students are already signing up to stay in Collegiate Village, a new community of brightly colored cottages across from SUNY Potsdam on Main Street.

“The construction is moving along really smoothly; we have most of our buildings up,” said P. Jeffrey Birtch, chief executive officer at Chason Affinity, the Buffalo company responsible for the housing complex.

“It’s looking like a little city over here,” he said.

Twenty of the 24 cottages have been completed, and the rest will be done before they open in August.

The complex is already recruiting students.

“We’re about half full. We expect to be full by the beginning of school,” Mr. Birtch said.

Students at SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Canton and Clarkson University will live in the apartments come fall. Each of the 24 buildings includes two apartments, and every apartment has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen.

The apartments cost $700 per person for a 12-month lease. Financial aid will be accepted.

Affinity already has a presence in Potsdam with its St. Lawrence Ave. Apartments and is creating the collegiate village to capitalize on the growing student market.

“With the increase in the enrollment in the colleges, in this area in particular, we wanted to be able to provide quality housing for the students at an affordable price,” Collegiate Village Community Manager Jamie M. Jueckstock said.

The apartments created a controversy last summer when Affinity pursued tax breaks from the Potsdam taxing bodies to create and maintain the apartments. The village approved the breaks but the town shot them down and the deal fell apart. The decision was made in part because of pressure from local landlords, who said it was unfair for an out-of-town company to get tax breaks when they do not.

Mr. Birtch said Affinity will still pursue other options for reducing taxes but he declined to go into specifics.

“Right now we just want to focus on getting open,” he said.

Heather M. Beauchamp lives across the street from the apartments and teaches psychology at SUNY Potsdam. She thinks the complex will probably be a positive development.

“I think it will be good for the students,” she said. “And I think it may cause some of the other renters to compete and that might not be a bad thing.”

She is worried the apartments will cause more traffic but hopes they will lead to some infrastructure improvements she has wanted for a long time.

“Maybe it will force the town to put in a sidewalk,” she said.

The 24 buildings opening in August are only the first phase of construction.

Work on an additional 26 cottages will begin almost immediately, bringing the village up to 100 apartments with 300 beds.

Those apartments are expected to open in the summer of 2014.

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