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UMass gets new housing in Amherst

AMHERST -- The state's biggest college campus is going to feel less crowded.

After a five-year housing crunch that has forced hundreds of students to live in hotels until dorm space became available, the University of Massachusetts is opening a complex of four apartment-style buildings.

Three of the five-story brickfaçade buildings will be ready for returning students. The fourth may need a few more weeks of construction, officials said.

The North Residential Area, a $93 million construction project, marks the first new housing on campus in 35 years.

With cable television and high-speed Internet access available on a campus that takes about 30 minutes to walk from end to end, a growing number of students say living on campus is a better deal than finding an apartment on their own.

``It's great to feel immersed in a community that gives you everything you need," said Sean Blum, a 20-year-old junior from Succasunna, N.J., who is moving into the new complex.

The new housing units, dedicated yesterday at a ceremony that attracted UMass trustees, administrators , and state politicians, are the latest milestone in the five-campus university's plans for a systemwide facelift. Before the ceremony, the trustees met on the Amherst campus and approved a $2 billion capital spending plan for construction of a science building and fine arts center on the Amherst campus and a parking garage on the Boston campus.

Jack Wilson, UMass president, said he will try to get the state to pay for about 27 percent of those costs. The university would borrow the rest of the money, Wilson said.

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