CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The landscape of Morgantown continued to see changes Thursday as bulldozers ripped through dilapidated buildings in the Sunnyside neighborhood and WVU officials inked a deal to develop even more land.
West Virginia University is planning a $90 million multi-purpose development for mixed student housing and commercial development between the Evansdale and Health Sciences campuses, according to a press release issued Thursday afternoon.
The development, "University Park," will replace housing at Fieldcrest Hall and Medical Center Apartments, both of which will be demolished, and Pierpont Apartments, where the lease will not be renewed. It will include 1,100 beds, food services and retail.
WVU acquired 5.7 acres Thursday for $12.2 million. A previous acquisition, plus some smaller additional acquisitions, will bring the total property acquisition cost to $14.7 million. The University's property costs will be covered by proceeds from the development; the developers are responsible for privately financing construction costs.
The project will revert to the University in 40 years, according to the release.
This will be the third and final phase of the current student housing master plan, which the university's Board of Governors adopted last year.
The BOG unanimously approved a resolution during its special meeting Wednesday authorizing the university to purchase property, which will be located on approximately seven acres just north of University Avenue and along Harding Avenue and Oakland Street, and stretching along Country Club Road behind McDonald's.
The mixed-use development will feature apartment-style housing and will be a private-public partnership similar to the development in Sunnyside, according to WVU officials. The conceptual architectural plans include three buildings with a combination of suite-style rooms and condominiums/apartments.
The site also includes parking and green space.
"Auxiliary retail and office space will be included to create a campus village designed to improve student experience and campus life, as well as redevelop the area in between the campuses. In addition to providing convenient, quality housing options to undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty and staff, the project will ease connectivity and increase pedestrian activity between the Health Science and Evansdale campuses," according to the release.
WVU is acquiring the property from MJR Evansdale Development LLC and others. Developers began acquiring options in 2011 and over the course of the last two years, worked with 12 property owners to acquire 21 parcels. The land has been acquired by WVU as part of the contractual public-private relationship between the parties. MJR Evansdale Development LLC, the private developer, consists of M&J Property Holdings and RCL Evansdale Holdings, according to the release.
A Travelodge motel currently located on the property will continue to operate until at least December. Other leases will continue to be honored, and site development will not begin until those leases expire.
Narvel Weese, WVU's vice president for administration and finance, said the recent public-private projects do more than provide better housing for WVU students.
They also expand the tax base for the city and county by generating additional B&O taxes, he said, adding, "University Park alone should more than double the net tax revenue to the city from these properties."
The project is expected to be ready for fall 2015.
The announcement comes amid the demolition of the Sunnyside neighborhood. The neighborhood, which has been notorious for dilapidated student housing just steps away from the Downtown Campus, previously housed about 120 students.
In October, university officials announced plans to build a $70 million residential and retail complex within the boundaries of University Avenue, Grant Avenue, Third Street and Houston Drive.
WVU hired private firm Paradigm Development Group LLC and entered into a long-term lease and development agreement to develop the mixed-use area. The BOG approved the five-plus acre property acquisition for $14.6 million.
Crews began demolishing houses last week, according to Corey Farris, dean of students and director of housing at WVU. At press time, 17 houses have been demolished, and four remain standing, brining the total affected houses to 21. However, crews are actively working to remove siding and other materials before bringing the remaining buildings down, Farris said.
Crews had to check the area for hazardous material - like refrigeration equipment - that cannot be deposited in landfills. After that, they demolished the houses and graded the property.
"After that, we'll begin to see the reverse - buildings coming up from the ground," Farris said.
"University Place" will consist of a 297,000 square-foot rental space projected to provide nearly 1,000 beds in 265 units for WVU students in two muli-story buildings on three acres. The units will also have private bedrooms and bathrooms, in-unit kitchens, wireless high speed internet access, air conditioning and laundry. It will also include an additional two acres across the street - facing University Avenue - for parking for residents and retail customers.
An additional 268,000 square feet will be devoted to a complex with a full-service grocery store, a substation for university police, a fitness center and a restaurant. Townhomes are also planned as part of the development, with a pedestrian-only streetscape between them and the main two buildings.
University officials offered compensation for students if they needed to break their leases to move from the area to accommodate a higher rate of rent.
The Sunnyside project is expected to be finished by fall of 2014.