Luxury Housing at U of I

By: Jess Hudon

It’s interesting to see how much the UIUC campus has changed. Ask any alumni what changes they notice most on campus and they’ll tell you, right away, that it’s the housing situation. Not only do they marvel at the new, fancy dorms, but the sheer amount of luxury housing complexes being built, they’ll add, is astounding. The amenities they offer--pools, game lounges, fitness centers, and club houses--are comparable to those of a beachside resort (without the beach of course). The comforts these luxury complexes offer are so outlandish that it’s enough to make alumni want to sell their house in the suburbs and move back down.

Driving north on Lincoln avenue, you can’t help but notice the construction of a brand-new luxury living community called The Retreat At Illinois. The Retreat is a self-proclaimed “modern living” community equipped with endless “resort-style” amenities because students, the management company claims, “students deserve to be in vacation mode outside of class.”

Not only are the provisions luxurious, but the cottages have everything you could ask for. When you sign a lease with The Retreat, you acquire a private bedroom and bathroom, granite countertops, high-end appliances, high-speed Internet, complimentary flat-screen TV’s, and fully custom-designed, furnished rooms. All that doesn’t come without a hefty price tag; 2 to 4-bedroom cottages range from $799 to $979 per person a month.

Students have been hearing about The Retreat long before its construction began. With Instagram giveaways, promotional shirts, and a big mural outside of their new leasing office, The Retreat has done a phenomenal job of getting people excited to adopt a year-round vacation lifestyle. One look at their website and it’s easy to envision yourself playing billiards in the clubhouse, sidling up to the coffee bar, or donning your bikini to lounge by the pool. The photos are colorful, the videos filled with young, good-looking students; The Retreat community looks clean and inviting, but most of all, it looks fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype.

Recently, they have taken over the Suburban Express office at the corner of 6th and East John Street. Given that this is a relatively high traffic area, Landmark Properties (which manages The Retreat At Illinois) has chosen to paint a mural on the side of their building. This is a kind of advertisement--something so permanent, so artistic, so in-your-face--is not commonly seen, so it naturally attracts one’s attention.

Lest one be completely blinded by the sunlight offered at The Retreat, it is important to note that this community is somewhat isolated--not a short walking distance from campus--and is best enjoyed by those with a car. Sure, it is serviced by the Champaign-Urbana bus system, that is, if you don’t mind working around their schedule, not yours. It should be noted as well, that the cost of renting a cottage at The Retreat (4 bedrooms at $900 per person, i.e. $3600) is more than many people’s mortgage on a 4-bedroom single-family suburban home on acreage. Perhaps there’s something to be said for living the authentic broke-college-student life. Afterall, aren’t one’s college years meant to teach resilience, build character, not build a hot-tub party at the clubhouse?