Renovations to fix Holly’s rough spots

Splashes of mildew, large water spots and tiny cobwebs lurk nestled inside the shady corridors of any Holly Apartment building. Traffic is minimal, even at midday when the campus hot spots are packed.

Residents scurry in and out of their individual rooms, sometimes without even saying a word to their neighbors.

Residents say they would like a better environment, and the Department of Residence Services plans to deliver on that request, as renovations to Holly are set to begin in May.

By the end of 2006, department officials hope that the seven Holly buildings will have windows, air conditioning and better lighting throughout.

Additionally, carpet and furniture will be put in the vacant, open-air spaces that separate the apartments.

Junior Sarah Calabello, who lives in Holly F, said she’s interested in seeing the proposed changes.

“This is so individualized. Because you don’t see many people, it’ll bring some of the Holly (residents) together to meet new people,” she said.

Residence Services Director Tom Kane envisions a more communal atmosphere, which is why the department is spending $2.7 million on the project.

Kane said Holly was designed for upperclassmen, but more and more freshmen are living there. According to department records, freshmen have made up 52 percent of the Holly residents in the fall 2004 and 2005 semesters.

Freshman Zuheily Rodriguez, who lives in Holly B, said the proposed changes are a good thing and remind her of Cypress Apartments.

“It was cool to have the lobby where (a resident) could wait for someone or having a meeting,” she said.

Rodriguez said she doesn’t like “when it’s raining and you walk in your building still getting wet.”

Not only are residents getting wet, but Kane said after a strong rainstorm, floodwaters move toward the air-handling room and then creep inside the nearest apartment. In addition to providing needed structural improvements, Kane believes this project will improve Holly’s appearance.

Two years ago, Kane said department officials hired a consulting firm – Collman and Karsky, a southwest Tampa architectural company – to discuss possible changes.

He said Collman and Karsky proposed the addition of awnings or a thicker screen to deter the rain from seeping in.

“Adding awnings was $1.7 million,” Kane said. “But for another million, we could air condition it.”

Kane said neither bonds nor state funding are available to help offset the project’s $2.7 million price tag, but added that the Florida Legislature and the Board of Governors require that Residence Services establish a reserve fund to pay off the debt. In addition to the mandate, Kane said the department tries to keep $4 million on hand for such rainy-day projects.

“Every dollar comes from rent,” Kane said. “If we have a debt payment, the rent money (covers it).”

Even though the project is paid for, based on the department’s reserve fund, students will see a rate increase next January. Kane said the department plans to impose a 6.2 percent rent increase on students.

“That’s a large (increase) for us,” Kane said. “We usually keep it around four percent.”

According to department records, students now pay $2,448 per semester. After the building additions, that number will increase to approximately $2,600.

Kane said a driving factor in the rate increase was Tampa Electric Company (TECO) increasing the electric cost citywide by 12 percent as well as natural gas rates, which have risen significantly since Hurricane Katrina.

However, Kane said when construction begins, the small number of students who live in Holly shouldn’t be affected. He said he hopes that the heavy and noisy work will be complete before fall classes begin.

As it stands, Kane knows that students aren’t having a very good experience.

“What we’re hoping to do is renovate this and encourage people to use their space to get to know each other,” he said.