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It's tough to be a University of Utah student these days. Tuition keeps rising, some courses are hard to find, the football team is struggling.

But help may be on the way, at least for students looking for an affordable, comfortable apartment close to campus so they don't have to rely on cars, pay for fuel and fight for a parking space somewhere in the vicinity of their classes.

And who better to design housing for students than recent U. graduates? Just such a group of developers is looking for financing and city approval for a massive apartment complex on the corner of 400 South and 900 East, adjacent to Salt Lake City's 900 East TRAX station.

It would be the first project of its size near the university that would cater to students. Residents would have a short walk to the TRAX trains to take them to classes. They could ride the trains to the City Library and downtown shopping.

The three business-school-alumni partners are proposing a five-floor complex to house up to 464 residents in 140 units on a 2.24-acre lot currently occupied by an Office Max store. They call it University Station. The plan is for a U-shape building facing 400 South with parking at street level and one level below. Enhancing its appeal to students is a landscaped patio with a barbeque pit, pavilion and hot tub.

Most apartments would be 1,100 square feet with four bedrooms, free Internet and cable TV, renting for less than $600 a month.

One of the team of developers remembers living in apartment buildings with similar amenities near Brigham Young University in Provo where students would gather and socialize. "Here there is zero. It's mind-boggling," said partner Justin Earl.

While apartments for students exist both on campus and in nearby complexes and houses, they are designed and built for the mass rental market, not specifically for students. This complex helps meet an urgent need. It deserves a close look from city planners, who should consider promoting such projects on other sites close to transit stations.

A mix of high-density housing, retail and commercial businesses is ideal for transit-oriented development. Apartments located close to trains allow residents to forgo driving, save money and reduce the vehicle emissions that are fouling the air in the Salt Lake Valley.

The plans have not yet been presented to Salt Lake City officials, but University Station appears to be just what city planners are looking for, as well as what students need.

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