ST. PAUL -- St. Thomas University has started demolishing a number of campus properties to open up space that might be used for student housing.

The university began demolishing four houses and a commercial building that has stood since the street-car era this week.

School officials are still working on a master plan - one of their goals is more student housing - but they decided to move ahead with the demolition to avoid spending money on short-term renovations to the structures. Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations, says official plans for the space will be finalized by early next year.