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Don’t call it a dorm: University of Tampa students live big at The Henry

The just-opened high-rise has all the downtown amenities - sky views, 24/7gym, nearby restaurants and the Riverwalk. Except this one’s 100 percent occupied by college students.
Students relax at the eighth-story pool at the newly-opened off-campus housing high-rise called The Henry, a nod to Henry Plant, who built the historic hotel that now houses the University of Tampa.
Students relax at the eighth-story pool at the newly-opened off-campus housing high-rise called The Henry, a nod to Henry Plant, who built the historic hotel that now houses the University of Tampa. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]
Published Sep. 28

TAMPA — On a breezy pool deck eight stories up with sweeping views of the city, residents of a newly-opened downtown high-rise called The Henry are oiled and lounging in the sun like an ad for a brochure.

“Everything’s convenient — you don’t have to have a car,” said Elli Weinberg from her perch at the blue water’s edge.

“You can kind of walk everywhere,” said Lillie Cunha.

But these are not urban professionals, the kind who occupy other residential towers that have risen in recent years to build Tampa’s skyline and give downtown its bona fides. The 23-story Henry at the busy corner of Ashley Drive and Tyler Street is instead fully and exclusively occupied by students who are attending the nearby University of Tampa.

And living in what is definitely not your old-school college dormitory.

“We call it student housing,” said Greg Minder, one of The Henry’s owners and development partners. “I’m hard-pressed to call this a dorm.”

A place to study or socialize at The Henry.
A place to study or socialize at The Henry. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

The Henry is managed by Peak Campus, a company that operates multiple student housing properties from the University of Connecticut to Texas A&M.

For the University of Tampa — where the average yearly full-time tuition is $29,162 not including fees, books or on-campus room and board, and $44,464 with them — The Henry is the “preferred” off-campus housing on the school’s website. While the university doesn’t own or operate the property, it refers students looking for off-campus housing to The Henry.

Its name is a nod to Henry B. Plant, the railroad and shipping magnate who built the distinctive Moorish minaret-topped Tampa Bay Hotel along the Hillsborough River between 1888 and 1891. Still one of the city’s most striking landmarks, it currently houses part of the university. From just across the river, Henry residents get a postcard scene of their more than 100-acre, tree-shaded campus.

The University of Tampa.
The University of Tampa. [ SUE CARLTON/Times ]

“The view is so nice,” said Weinberg, who can see beyond the school to the bay waters from her 18th floor apartment.

A shuttle service ferries students to and from the nearby campus, though many opt to make the ten minute walk or bike across the bridge to class. An e-scooter station and Uber pick-up point wait outside The Henry’s doors.

Inside the building — billed as “Student Living Elevated” — is a manned front desk and boutique hotel-style lobby done in accents of red and black, school colors of the UT Spartans. A grab-and-go lobby shop supplies Cheetos, microwave burritos, Pepto Bismol and such.

Amenities that parents of its residents likely never saw when they were in college include a 24/7 gym, the eighth-floor deck with grills and game area, and a club room with large-screen TVs and digital gaming stations. There are classic foosball and pool tables, too.

With the building 100 percent occupied since it opened to students in August for the fall semester, its 537 residents needed to be able to simultaneously watch a class, see a movie or play Fortnite, Minder said. So getting The Henry its “super high-speed internet” was important.

Kyle Camenzulli, left, and Kevin Sarvey study together at The Henry.
Kyle Camenzulli, left, and Kevin Sarvey study together at The Henry. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

Chairs, tables and movable sectionals for doing schoolwork, lounging and socializing are plenty, as are acoustically-hushed study areas. Big-screen TVs at the elevators show a feed of schedules and events at the university.

From higher floors, you can see clear to the roller coasters of Busch Gardens to the north, downtown St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field to the south.

“It’s brand new housing, so I feel like I’m living in a hotel,” said Eden Alfassy, a freshman from New Jersey studying international business and marketing. “I feel like I can teleport from floor to floor on the elevators. I just feel like I know so many people here.”

Students work out at The Henry.
Students work out at The Henry. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

The 188 apartments come furnished and have wood-style flooring, washers, dryers and kitchens with dishwashers. It’s one person per bedroom, and unlike traditional apartments, rent is paid per bed, not per apartment.

The Henry has 1-bedrom 1-bathroom, 2-bedroom 1-bathroom, 2-bedroom 2-bathroom, 4-bedroom 2-bathroom and 4-bedroom 4-bathroom floorplans. They range in size from 449 to 1,341 square feet. Monthly rent starts at $1,049 and ranges to $1,999 per resident, depending on the unit’s size, location and amenities. That includes utilities except for electricity, since some occupants use more than others.

Leases at The Henry typically include a parent as a guarantor.

Apartments can go co-ed only if everyone in them agrees. Dogs are allowed with the same caveat. A jar of dog treats sits in the lobby for the 10 canines currently in residence, and a few cats live there, too.

“It’s definitely a step up from the student housing I’d been in before,” said Justin Gross, 22, who was walking to the nearby Duckweed Urban Grocery to get makings for smoothies. “And I like that it’s in the center of downtown.”

Lillie Cunha, above, and Elli Weinberg at the pool at The Henry.
Lillie Cunha, above, and Elli Weinberg at the pool at The Henry. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

Halle Hicks, a freshman from small-town Connecticut, was a little nervous about living downtown. But she’s found Butter’s Burgers, the CVS and a coffee shop she likes, socialized on the elevators and been to the pool. “Now I love it,” she said.

“My mom was like, ‘You’re so lucky to live here,’” Hicks said. “I get that from a lot of people.”