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New WVU housing development delayed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -Demolition work is still weeks away for West Virginia University's massive new $70 million housing and retail complex.

In October the school announced it had partnered with private firm Paradigm Development Group to build a 300,000-square-foot facility in the Sunnyside neighborhood near downtown Morgantown.

At the time Brian Helmick, an attorney representing Paradigm, said the holding group planned to start demolition work in late December or early January. That work won't happen until the first of February at the earliest, WVU spokesperson Becky Lofstead said Friday.

There are two delaying factors: people still live on the land, and health and safety inspections are taking time.

The proposed plot for the "University Place" complex consists of 39 parcels. Much of that land had served as private student housing. When WVU officials announced the plans in October, they said they would help those tenants find new housing but they had to leave before the end of the school year.

About 120 people lived on that land, Lofstead said. The university immediately began working with those tenants to find other accommodations. As of Friday there were about 12 people who still needed to move, Lofstead said.

Those people did not move because they were busy finishing up the semester or had plans for the holiday break, but Lofstead said the university would immediately help them find new housing when classes resume Jan. 14.

Most of the people living on the land found other private housing options, although Lofstead said a few moved into WVU housing. The university is working with each student to pay moving costs and make up any potential increase in rent brought on by switching housing arrangements.

That costs varies for each student, Lofstead said, making it difficult to guess how much the university has spent thus far to move tenants off the land. Paradigm is eventually going to cover all of those costs, she said.

Once all the students leave the properties, the developers need to go through and do the necessary preparation before tearing down the structures, Lofstead said. That includes unhooking appliances and other routine safety checks, she said.

The university is paying the $14.6 million cost for the land through revenue bonds. It's anticipating the revenue from student and business rental fees should be sufficient to cover the bonds.

Loftstead expected the bonds would be issued by Jan. 24.

Paradigm is on the hook for the entirety of the projected $70 million development cots.

As detailed in the project arrangement, Paradigm pays the upfront construction costs and then receives a certain amount of the proceeds from the project. That amount increases to 51 percent after the first 10 years the facility is open, according to the agreement between Paradigm and the university.

Ryan Lynch, Doug Martinelli and Jim Brown founded Paradigm in February. Martinelli is a professor of civil engineering at WVU, and Brown owns a private contracting company in Fairmont. This development is the company's first, Helmick told the Daily Mail in October.

As of late October, Paradigm had not secured any financing for the project. However, Helmick said "banks are at the table" ready to lend the $70 million. University spokesman John Bolt told the Daily Mail at the time the university had no concerns about Paradigm finding the money.

Helmick did not return a message left Friday. Lofstead said she had not heard anything recently from Paradigm concerning funding.

Project officials anticipate the building will consist of 265 student apartments on the upper levels and retail businesses on the first floor. Those businesses include a grocery store, and possibly coffee shops, bookstores and a restaurant.   

Completion is still slated by the start of the 2014 fall semester.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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