A look inside living at the Best Western University Inn

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Collegian | Garrett Mogel

The Best Western University Inn on the corner of Elizabeth Street and College Avenue is being converted into dorm rooms for roughly 150 first-year Colorado State University students, Aug. 23.

JJ McKinney

Portia Cook, Staff Contributor

Every year, residence halls like Braiden Hall and Corbett Hall are filled with the exhilarating buzz of parents and students personalizing dorm spaces and settling in for the semester ahead. 

For some Colorado State University students, however, the move to college this fall looks somewhat different. 

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Last week, around 150 students moved into Fort Collins’ Best Western University Inn. 

Hundreds of remaining students were assigned to emergency housing and converted lounge spaces within facilities across campus. 

According to CSU Housing & Dining Services, Colorado State University is experiencing record attendance this fall, which made the campus housing demand higher than usual.

Julian Gordon sits on his dorm room bed inside the Fort Collins Best Western University Inn
First-year student Julian Gordon sits on his dorm room bed inside the Fort Collins Best Western University Inn Aug. 23. “I feel like I am lucky I get a lot of access to AC,” Gordon said. “It’s cold when I sleep; I got a TV, a nice microwave and fridge. … I got my own bathroom. I feel pretty lucky — I like it.” (Collegian | Garrett Mogel)

Julian Gordon, a first-year engineering student, is just one of the roughly 150 students living in the hotel. 

Upon learning of his temporary housing assignment, Gordon said, “It was kind of a shock, but I was happy at the same time.” 

Gordon said his biggest concern is being uprooted to a permanent space in the future, but for now, he is happy to receive the hotel’s weekly linen cleaning service in addition to the in-room amenities. 

“I like it; I feel pretty lucky,” Gordon said. “A lot of the other students don’t have AC, a fridge or a microwave in their dorm, so I’m lucky.”

Sherry and Michael Gordon, parents of Julian Gordon, said while their experience moving their son to college was different than what they expected, “the hotel experience has been relatively good.” 

“Everything went very smoothly as far as checking in and getting him in there,” Sherry Gordon said. “We had a nice welcome; they had a nice gift bag and everything — so right now, we are very happy and very pleased.”

As Sherry and Michael Gordon prepared to leave their son to begin his college journey, Michael Gordon said, “He’s happy; mom is happy; I’m happy, and that’s what matters most right now. I think we’re all in a good situation.” 

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First Year students in the fort collins Best Western University
Students Julian Gordon, Josephine Rupe, Alejandra Flores, Hailey Rageth, Kellen Sisco, Bruno Pardo and Chris Rodier pose for a group photo inside one of the Fort Collins Best Western University Inn four-person dorm rooms Aug. 23. (Collegian | Garrett Mogel)

First-year health and exercise science major Grace Hartnett is also one of the students living in the Best Western.

Hartnett, like Julian Gordon, was assigned to a double occupancy room that provides typical in-room hotel amenities, including two double beds, one shared nightstand, one shared desk, one shared three-drawer dresser, one shared closet, a private bathroom with a bathtub, two sinks, an air-conditioning unit, a mini refrigerator and a microwave. 

Personalizing a dorm room can be a fun and exciting step in creating an environment that showcases individuality and creativity, and Harnett was disappointed to learn she won’t be hanging the lights, mirror or any other decor she purchased any time soon.

Aside from the inability to personalize her space, Hartnett said her biggest concern is how long it will take to get from the hotel to the food locations her classmates on campus have easy access to. 

“Most of the dining halls are in or close to the dorm areas, but we’re kind of far away,” she said. “If I’m studying and I want dinner, it’s a trip. It’s not like I can just go and quickly get something.”

Grace Hartnett’s mother, Kristy Hartnett, said while the housing situation is unfortunate, “the University has been good and transparent as we talk to them — willing to answer questions — and they don’t seem to be hiding anything.”

However, Kristy Hartnett said she hopes her daughter’s housing situation gets resolved quickly. 

Associate Executive Director of Housing & Dining Services and Interim Director of University Housing Nick Sweeton said there is no guarantee on when students will move to a permanent space on campus. 

Sweeton said there are several variables, like no-shows and attrition, to consider when gauging the timeline of moving students back on campus. 

Sweeton said while most students in temporary spaces can expect to be placed in permanent spaces by the middle to end of October, “given a large number of students in temp housing this year, it’s quite possible that some percentage of those students will be in a temp space for the entire fall semester and maybe the entire academic year.” 

Sweeton said as rooms become available, they will follow a process of doing their best to match students with the room preferences cited on their housing applications as they become available.   

Students like Grace Hartnett and Julian Gordon will be housed alongside peers in the hotel, but living in an off-campus temporary space doesn’t offer the same experience one would expect from living in a residence hall. 

To combat students feeling isolated, Sweeton said CSU, with the help of its staff, is implementing a unique community development model for students staying in the Best Western. 

“There’s a menu of programs that will occur for those students that are designed to help them get to know each other, keep them connected to campus and provide them with a great experience,” Sweeton said.

What’s not on the menu, however, is the ability for students to use the hotel pool or weight room. 

In the end, rather than looking at the high demand for on-campus housing as a negative, Sweeton said, “I think it’s a really good indication that we have such interest in coming to CSU this year and living on campus. It means that we’re providing an experience that students want. We’re so grateful that so many people are interested and that so many people want to be a Ram.” 

Reach Portia Cook at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @csucollegian.