Purdue co-op on borrowed time, seeks new home

(WLFI Photo)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Residents of a student cooperative at Purdue University are scrambling to find a new place to live following the news that the Purdue Research Foundation would take over the property they’ve called home.

Devonshire has provided cooperative living to up to 15 women for 18 years, but the foundation, which serves as the university’s real estate arm, notified residents at the start of the fall semester that next spring would be the end of the co-op in its current location. The foundation has since agreed to a one-year reprieve, but the co-op is on borrowed time.

“We’re still on the clock, as they say,” Anne Dare, president of the alumni board and assistant house adviser for the co-op, told the Journal & Courier.

Finding a new location for the co-op won’t be easy. West Lafayette housing codes make it difficult to find room for up to 15 students close to campus.

Residents have held bake sales and sought out financial help, but whether they can afford a new home in what’s known as the “island” — a strip surrounded by Purdue and being set aside for additional student housing — is still in question.

The co-op was formed in 1997 by students who were looking for housing where women studying science, technology, engineering and math could create a support system in a place that also allowed them to live cheaply.

Residents share chores, shopping, cooking and dish duty in the two-story house, where composite photos of previous residents adorn the living room walls.

“The girls at Devonshire became my family,” said alumna Erica Quinlan. “And at $400 a month rent, including food and all utilities, I couldn’t beat the price.”

Michael Cline, vice president for physical facilities, said the property’s future will be heavily influenced by President Mitch Daniels’ “Purdue Moves” plan, which includes a component that aims to encourage more students to live on campus.

Cynthia Sequin, director of marketing and communications for the foundation, said it’s possible that Devonshire’s year-to-year lease could continue, but there are no guarantees.

Brandon Cutler, an assistant dean of students and director of fraternity, sorority and cooperative life at Purdue, said Devonshire’s situation “has been a wake-up call for a lot of other co-ops.”

“Now they’re having the conversation: What’s 3 or 4 percent of our operating budget, and should we be putting that aside for the future?” Cutler said.

Dare said Devonshire understands the university’s desire to expand but that the situation is still difficult.

“It’s kind of a very tearful conversation we’re having. It’s kind of like going through a divorce. How long do we hang on? Who’s going to take our composites? Who gets the dishes? Who would even want to keep them?

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and we won’t have to answer those. There are ways to make the best of it. But it’s going to take a lot of leg work,” she said.

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