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Fenwick Place up for sale? 

Dalhousie University wants to get rid of its Fenwick Tower property

Dalhousie University is one step closer to putting one of the peninsula's most notorious high rises on the market, but what its sale means for more than 400 students who call it home is still anyone's guess.

Four months ago, the university announced it was looking for a real-estate agent to sell Fenwick Towers, its 33-storey, apartment-style residence. Now university spokesman Charles Crosby says that process is almost complete and the building will be up for sale in the coming weeks. No sale price has been announced, but the structure is assessed at $14 million.

However, the university still hasn't decided where it will house Fenwick's current residents after the 2008-09 school year.

"For the coming year, Fenwick will operate as normal. Beyond that, we don't know," says Crosby. "We don't know if the building will be there on that land, we don't know if we'll maintain the building as is. We don't know if there will be something on campus... but they'll be accommodated, as they always have."

But where? Crosby says Dalhousie's residences were packed during the 2007-08 school year. The university also saw a "huge up-tick" in residence applications from first- year students who---unlike the graduate students and older undergrads who often live in Fenwick---are guaranteed a room on campus.

"We did too good a job selling," Crosby says. "So there was a bit of a scramble last year to make sure we had everyone accounted for. There was no vacancy rate at all. If anything it was the opposite."

Heather Sutherland, director of housing, told Dal's Community Committee there's "no doubt" the school needs more residence space. But Crosby says he can't speculate on how long it will take for Dalhousie to decide on a post-Fenwick plan of action.

"There's a lot of question marks at this point," he says. "Until we get to that point where we have someone we can sit down with and talk to about what our long-term strategy is, those question marks remain."

Though the Dalhousie Gazette originally published (then retracted) an article suggesting the building's "outdated and shabby condition" led to its sale, Crosby says the university's main problem with the building is its location.

"One of our longer-term goals is to try to concentrate things a little closer to campus," Crosby says. "Right now Fenwick houses a number of students considerably off-campus."

The building is about a 15-minute walk from Dalhousie campus. Six buses, all of which pass by Dalhousie, also stop within three blocks of the building.

Many of Fenwick's current tenants have a mixed reaction to the building's impending sale. Lee Moshurchak, 28, a grad student from the 25th floor, says he's just hoping he'll be out of the city before Fenwick closes.

Though the building isn't perfect (he's especially baffled by the lack of garbage cans in furnished apartments), Moshurchak says he's never had enough problems with his apartment to want to move.

"I've lived in worse places," he says. "It's one that's not great but it's not bad.

"I plan to stay here until they kick me out," he adds.

Glenn Blake, a 22-year-old international development student who lives on the 31st floor, has a more dramatic reaction. He's ready to see the building torn down. As soon as possible.

"I don't know a lot of facts about who lives here and rooms and students, but I know that's a monstrosity," he says, staring up at the building's chipped concrete exterior from a picnic table near the main entrance. "It is hideous. Whoever takes it down will probably be doing the city a favour."

This is Blake's second time in Fenwick---it's a move back he never expected to make. After living in an unmemorable apartment in the building in first year he swore he'd never be back. Then he discovered mould in the attic of his new apartment.

"I needed a place for two months and the only place that could have taken me on short notice was Fenwick," he says. And though Blake would love to see the building taken down, he says it does fill a need for students.

"I mean, I'm here," he says with a grin. "If this place wasn't here I totally---I don't know what I'd do."

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