West Virginia University and Paradigm Development Group LLC announced Oct. 26 that they have entered an long-term lease and development agreement to build a mixed-use residential and commercial complex in Morgantown's Sunnyside neighborhood.
The project is expected to cost $70 million.
The agreement comes just days after the university's board of governors decided to approve a plan where the university would spend $14.6 million to buy more than five acres in the neighborhood, which is home to numerous privately owned, often run-down student apartments. Sunnyside also is considered the epicenter of student riots and couch-burning parties that have made headlines in recent years.
Construction of the new complex is expected to take until 2014. However, demolition of properties on land being acquired by the university will begin in December or January. So university officials said they are already contacting students and other tenants to offer alternative housing options and assistance with moving.
University Place, as it will be known, will be a vertical complex featuring two multi-story buildings on three acres, according to a release from the university. The complex will sit within the boundaries of University and Grant avenues, Third Street and Houston Drive.
Plans call for the complex to have 297,000 square feet of rentable space and almost 268,000 square feet of student space – or approximately 980 more beds in 265 units. The units will feature private bedrooms and bathrooms, in-unit kitchens, wireless high speed Internet access, air conditioning and laundry facilities, according to a news release from the university.
In addition, retail space of 29,650 square feet is expected to include a full service grocery store, a restaurant, community outdoor space, a fitness center that will be available to the community and other amenities. The complex also will have a WVU police substation, plus 195,000 square feet of parking, or an additional 400 parking spaces.
Townhomes are also planned as part of the development, with a pedestrian-only streetscape between them and the main two buildings.
The designers are Grimm and Parker Architects of Calverton, Md.
University officials say the project will help provide additional housing for international, professional and veteran students, as well as freshmen and sophomores. It also will provide student housing with modern features with access to both the downtown and Evansdale campuses.
"This area is strategically located next to current WVU housing — Summit and Honors Halls — and is just a couple blocks from our downtown campus, making it the ideal location to enhance our housing master plan while beautifying this blighted area of our city," Narvel Weese, vice president for administration and finance, said in a news release.
WVU President Jim Clements said he is "thrilled that this project has come together as a win-win for our community and our students. This is an initiative that will transform the neighborhood and create many positive benefits going forward."
Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla called the development "exciting," and said it will have a "positive impact on our economy and on our entire community for years to come," adding, "this is what you call good, renewable growth."
As the project takes shape, it should also help eliminate the street and trash bin fires, plus the celebratory riots the area has been known for, he said.
"Paradigm is excited to be part of such an innovative and well thought out public-private partnership," said Brian Helmick, representing the Paradigm Development Group. "University Place is a model for how the public and private sectors can work together on urban renewal projects to build brighter futures for communities like Morgantown. University Place will expand student housing and retail options in Sunnyside, and will revitalize an unattractive dilapidated area into a beautiful, safe and affordable place for students, faculty, staff and citizens to live, work and shop."