Developers finalized the purchase of property Thursday in the Sunnyside neighborhood that West Virginia University will use for a student housing and business project.
While the university has authorized up to $15 million in revenue bonds to purchase the land from the developers, at least two former property owners said they could not talk about how much they received for their property.
"We had to sign a confidentiality agreement saying we couldn't discuss any terms of the deal," said Dow Jones, owner of the largest chunk of land involved in the development.
This week the WVU Board of Governors passed a resolution to purchase land for a student housing project. A document submitted last month by the university to the state Legislature references an agreement with Paradigm Development Group and RCL Holdings to purchase 39 parcels in Sunnyside for about $14.5 million.
Tax records show the property included in the deal is appraised at less than $4.5 million.
Jones, who is listed in documentation filed with the secretary of state as the owner of 20 pieces of property involved in the deal, said his portion of the sale would take place at 4 p.m. Thursday.
He said he thinks the amount he received was fair.
"Actually, they came to me and asked what I would sell for. I feel like I got a great deal because I threw a number out there and they accepted it," Jones said.
James Craig co-owns Blue Sky Realty with his son and owned nine pieces of property involved in the deal. Craig said he had sold his property Thursday morning but could not discuss the value of the sale because a confidentiality agreement was a requirement of the contract.
Craig also said he was happy with the terms of his deal. When asked about the disparity between the appraised value and WVU's purchase price, he said he couldn't speculate as to how much money the developers were making in the agreement.
"I don't know if there's any middleman profit to be made here or not," Craig said.
He thought the location of the property made it valuable, likening its proximity to downtown to oceanfront property.
"If you have the house on the ocean, it's worth 10 times more than the house across the street," he said.
Both Jones and Craig said the plan should help create a better atmosphere in Sunnyside, and they were going to re-invest the money made from this deal into other properties in the Sunnyside area. Craig said he was in the process of acquiring housing that he planned to renovate. Jones said the money would let him actually evict tenants who break the terms of their lease.
WVU officials have said more information on the project would be available today but have declined to comment further.
Three different people run the development groups: Ryan Lynch, Jim Brown and David Martinelli. Lynch is the organizer of Paradigm and RCL, and as a member of RCL Evansdale Holdings, RCL Sunnyside Holdings and WV Campus Housing. Brown and Martinelli are members of Paradigm and WV Campus Housing.
Martinelli is a professor of civil engineering at WVU. Brown owns G.A. Brown & Sons, a Fairmont construction company.
In a phone interview Thursday, Brown said Martinelli asked him "a couple of years ago" to get involved in a development project. It did not involve WVU at the time, he said. Brown is a graduate of WVU and member of the West Virginia Academy of Civil Engineers. He said he met Martinelli a few years ago during one of the organization's events.