CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University is close to finalizing the purchase of a large portion of property in Morgantown's Sunnyside neighborhood at a cost of roughly $14.5 million.
Details of the arrangement were included in a report submitted Sept. 24 by the university to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Government and Finance.
The agreement includes 39 different parcels of land located on Jones, Grant and University avenues, Quay and Overhill streets, Houston Drive and others in the surrounding area of Morgantown.
WVU wants to use the properties to provide students with safe, affordable housing and "amenities" that are close to its downtown campus, according to the document.
"WVU recognizes that, to support its 2020 Plan, safe and affordable student housing and related amenities will be critical for success of its educational and academic mission and that property for such housing and related amenities located within close distance to WVU's downtown campus will be in high demand and potentially unavailable," the document states.
In May WVU made an agreement with Paradigm Development Group, LLC and RCL Holding, LLC to pursue the purchase, according to the report. The developers approached WVU to see if it would be interested in the properties, the document states.
The sale comes with certain conditions from the companies.
The sale can go forward "only as a part of a transaction in which (the two companies selling the land) will participate in the development, financing, construction and management of one or more student housing facilities and of various enterprises," according to the report.
WVU spokesman John Bolt had no comment about the report, but said there could be more information available later in the week.
The WVU Board of Governors is scheduled to meet this afternoon in a special meeting. The approval of purchasing and financing real property in Morgantown is slated for discussion at the meeting, and there is a closed-door session to discuss commercial competition and legal matters.
Bolt would not say whether there was a connection between the report submitted to the Legislature and the meeting.
Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla said he was aware of the agreement but could not provide specific details about the arrangement. He characterized it as a "private-public venture" about which the city is excited.
"It's a great deal for the city of Morgantown," Manilla said Monday in a phone interview. "I think that this project is going to take care of a lot of (problem) areas in the Sunnyside area."
Sunnyside has traditionally been a popular area for WVU to live. There have also been safety concerns in the area: recently riots following a WVU game spilled into Sunnyside, and couch-burning has been prevalent in areas heavily populated by students.
Manilla said he thinks the agreement could help take care of some of the "blighted" areas within the neighborhood, and could also encourage other developers to look at similar improvement projects.
In the past there have been some problems with WVU acquiring land in the city, Manilla said. When the university buys property, the city loses out on the tax revenue that property generated, he said. However, through this development agreement, Manilla said the city would still receive some tax revenue from the property.
The project developers have met with numerous city officials, Manilla said. He said they've been cordial in providing information about the project.
Brian Helmick, an attorney who represents the Paradigm, said Monday in a phone interview the company can't provide more information at this time about the project. However, he said the developers would be excited to talk about the project soon.
The report states Paradigm and RCL have or are in the process of acquiring all of the parcels. The report does provide an option for the selling price to change if the two companies do not own any or all of the properties at the time the deal is closed.
A full copy of the report is available at dailymail.com.
The sale is set to close Thursday, according to the report. Before the deal can be completed it needs to be approved by the WVU Board of Governors, the legislative committee and the West Virginia Attorney General, according to the report.
West Virginia code states the committee needs to review the purchase. There is no mention as to whether the committee needs to approve the purchase.