The Perrys inside one of the apartments at Orchard Park featuring an open-concept kitchen, dining and living area. (Gregory Urquiaga)

New to the Neighborhood

by | Oct 4, 2023 | Fall/Winter 2023-24, Out and About

New transfer student Shanice Perry and her husband, Aaron, were busy setting things up just right in their two-bedroom apartment at Orchard Park and exploring the neighborhood with their two young children before classes started this fall.

They were among hundreds of students — mostly graduate students and students with families — settling into the newest campus housing development.

The $330 million project is part of the most ambitious housing construction program in the history of UC Davis and has helped the campus exceed a 2023 milestone to provide more campus housing in an agreement with the city of Davis and Yolo County. What’s more, it is an example of how a public-private partnership can help keep rents affordable.

“It majorly influenced my decision on schools,” said Shanice, who is working toward a degree in psychology on her way to a career as a physician assistant. “What’s nice about this, it’s brand new.”

And their housing is costing the family less than the Vacaville, California, apartment they rented while Shanice attended Diablo Valley College.

Project features

The new neighborhood comprises 11 four-story residential buildings and two community centers on a 19-acre site. It has 189 two-bedroom apartments for families and 1,100 bed leases in studio, two- and four-bedroom apartments for a total of 1,500 beds.

The family apartments lease for $2,320 a month or about 31% lower than comparable, newly constructed apartments in Davis, based on extrapolations from the university’s annual apartment survey. Most of the bed leases are in four-bedroom, two-bath apartments and are $1,040 a bed, or about 34% less than their Davis comparisons.

In mid-July, the Perry family got a sneak peek at their new home including the children’s playground and a staged apartment. “It looks bigger than what I thought it would be,” Shanice said with a smile as her husband, 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son also enjoyed exploring the apartment.

The two-bedroom family apartments are about 725 square feet with a hallway locker for children’s outdoor playthings. They feature wood-look tile flooring and include a refrigerator, oven, stove, dishwasher and microwave. The lease includes wireless service, water, sewer, PG&E and garbage services. Especially important for young families — their apartments include in-unit washers and dryers.

A height of four stories was the sweet spot for constructing the residential buildings and helped keep rent about 30% below what it is for other comparable newly constructed apartments in Davis. (Karin Higgins)


To make such a large housing project possible, UC Davis partnered with the nonprofit Collegiate Housing Foundation to fund it through tax-exempt bond sales and The Michaels Organization to leverage the national real estate firm’s expertise in developing affordable housing and student living communities. After 33 years, the university will own the buildings.

Michael Sheehan, associate vice chancellor for housing, dining and divisional operations in Student Affairs, said the campus’s involvement in each stage of the design process resulted in appropriate amenities and lower construction costs. Delayed by the start of the pandemic, the project also snagged a 2.7% interest rate at a historically optimal time for borrowers.

The new Orchard Park replaces a 200-apartment complex of the same name for students with families that was closed in 2015 after 51 years of service. Numerous graduate students have worked on committees advising on the new Orchard Park.

The new neighborhood maintains the open space and character of old Orchard Park. It features green space with at least 40 heritage trees, a children’s play area and a network of bike and pedestrian paths. The two community centers provide exercise, study and meeting spaces.

Even as a public-private partnership, Orchard Park offers another feature preferred by students: dealing directly with the university. While The Michaels Organization will maintain the buildings, the campus will be responsible for leasing, programming, custodial services and landscaping.

“There is no landlord that profits off the students,” said Mark Rutheiser, executive director of Real Estate Services for UC Davis. “The rent is the lowest it can be.”

Residual funds after operational expenses will help support the campus’s Need-Based Rent Subsidy Program. It provides monthly rent subsidies of $100 to $300 based on demonstrated need for residents of Primero Grove, The Green at West Village and now Orchard Park.

Campus Housing

With Orchard Park, UC Davis has exceeded its 2023 target of having 15,000 student beds on campus under the terms of a 2018 memorandum of understanding with the city of Davis and Yolo County. It is estimated that more than 40% of enrolled students based in Davis now have access to campus housing.

UC Davis had already exceeded another milestone to house 100% of the enrollment growth on campus since the campus Long Range Development Plan’s base year of 2016-17. Last academic year, 3,790 more students were living on campus — nearly 130% of the enrollment growth.

Since 2017, UC Davis has opened more than 6,500 new apartment and residence hall beds, and more are in the works. About 250 beds are under construction at Aggie Square in Sacramento for fall 2025, and two projects in early planning would add about 1,000 beds to the Segundo area and West Village.