West Virginia University’s five public-private partnerships will contribute more than $81 million to local and state tax revenues during their 40-year lifespan, including almost $1.7 million annually, the Board of Governors learned Friday (April 4).
“These partnerships are an investment in the future of the greater Morgantown community and West Virginia University,” Vice President for Administration and Finance Narvel Weese told the Board. “They will also help revitalize areas of Morgantown while helping address traffic congestion and improving the student experience.
“They also bring much-needed tax revenue to city, county and state coffers to assist with area projects and purchases such as road paving and other infrastructure and capital improvements,” Weese said.
The five projects are:
- University Place, a $70 million mixed-use student housing project, with about 980 beds, under construction in Sunnyside, featuring a full-service grocery store and other amenities.
- College Park, a $44 million mixed-use housing complex, with 567 beds for WVU students as well students and employees with families, off Willey Street.
- University Park, a $90 million multi-purpose development in the Evansdale area, that will include approximately 1,100 beds as well as WVU and other food options, along with retail development.
- Evansdale Crossing, a new $25 million facility which will house study and classroom spaces, a rooftop coffee lounge and student services including a PNC bank branch. It will also be situated near the Personal Rapid Transit system, Creative Arts, engineering and other nearby academic facilities.
- Baseball park, a $21 million stadium to be located near University Town Centre in Granville that will be the home of the WVU baseball team as well as a minor league team and available for other community events.
The partnerships “lead to revitalized neighborhoods throughout the community, and provide more walkability options, while providing a financial return to WVU as well as our community and taxpayers through additional jobs, taxes and economic and population growth,” Weese said.
The estimated financial impact on local and state governments, Weese said, will include $5.3 million in building and occupation taxes to the City of Morgantown, with annual revenues of $427,500 to the City; $502,500 to Monongalia County; and $750,000 in sales tax to the state, bringing the overall 40-year impact to $81.4 million.
He also noted that WVU uses revenue from the projects to fund its participation, meaning that no tuition or state tax dollars are used for design or construction.
The projects address several key strategic issues at WVU, Weese said, including insufficient, inflexible and outdated on-campus housing, lack of student-support and amenities on the Evansdale Campus and the need to upgrade baseball facilities to compete in the Big 12 athletic conference.
Other benefits include:
- No long-term exposure for the developers’ financing or guarantees.
- Preserves WVU’s debt capacity.
- Increases academic, student services and housing, and athletic capacity without adding debt to WVU’s balance sheet.
- WVU receives a fair share of net operating revenues generated by each project.
- Modernizes and maintains other WVU housing facilities using net operating revenues from housing partnerships.
- Addresses parent, student, faculty and staff demands for on-campus apartment-style housing.
- Stimulates additional private development through new retail and commercial spaces.
An important statistic related to student housing, Weese added, is that WVU is only providing 25 percent of the student population with accommodations; the private sector is still taking care of 75 percent of the University’s student population.
Board Chairman James Dailey II praised the “smart growth” these projects represent.
“It’s strategic for our University … and for our community and our state,” he said following the meeting.
“In this day and age of dwindling state and federal dollars for higher education, this is exactly what we must do—look for alternative revenue streams.”
Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin assured the Board that the City and the University “get along” and that Morgantown is “proud to be the home of the state’s flagship institution.”
“We appreciate that these mixed-use partnerships are taking care of blighted areas and allowing for a more walkable city,” she said. “There’s lots of promise.”
She listed many of the partnerships in which the City and University are cooperating, including a Safe Communities Initiative and an upcoming conference on looking for solutions to underage drinking; the long-standing Sunnyside Up partnership; a River Town initiative to take advantage of the area’s waterfronts; and her hope for a future project on innovative transportation solutions.
In response to Dailey’s encouragement for City officials to improve Morgantown Municipal Airport, Selin said the University is helping conduct several studies in support of efforts to expand the runway.
Frank Vitale, president of the Greater Morgantown Chamber of Commerce, praised WVU for undertaking the public-private initiatives and called WVU the “lynchpin to our community’s prosperity ? and the economic engine that brings us all success.”
President Gordon Gee thanked Chamber and City officials for attending the meeting, saying, “You can’t have a great University without a great City or a great City without a great University.”
Also at the meeting, the Board approved three new academic initiatives, including the creation of a new School of Politics and Policy in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
The new School integrates departments and programs in political science, public administration, international studies and leadership studies under one administrative area, following in the footsteps of other successful models such as those at the University of Arizona and Oregon State.
All existing degree programs will be sustained, officials say, and the move – effective Aug. 16 – will increase efficiencies, enhance interdisciplinary research and learning and provide a platform for external funding and relationships that will enhance academic initiatives and strengthen public policy research.
Also, in Eberly, the Board approved the establishment of a Department of Forensic and Investigative Science, reflecting the evolution from a program to an academic unit and the positioning of WVU as a national leader in forensic science and education.
The program’s roots go back to collaborations with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Systems division. Officials point out that both undergraduate and master’s degree programs are accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Science – only six institutions offer accredited forensic science programs at both these levels.
In the School of Medicine, a Master of Health Sciences degree is being created. The Board voted to approve the integrated curriculum that crosses medicine, pharmacy, public health and dentistry for Fall 2014 delivery. It is intended to provide career opportunities in multiple work environments whether it be government, education or preparation for professional programs in health-related fields, officials say.
President Gee, in his report to the Board, said he will complete a 55-county tour this summer, visiting with alumni, friends, public schools and colleges and other partners “in every nook and cranny” in the state. It’s a “boots-on-the-ground approach” to reach out to citizens where they are, he said, and underscores the University’s land-grant mission to serve our communities.
One stop was in Pocahontas County, he noted, and included a tour of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, which he called “an important worldwide treasure in scientific research.”
The Board also heard a report from Provost Michele Wheatly on the University’s progress in providing MOOCs, or massive, open on-line courses. Two courses – one on the music industry and another on forensic accounting, will be launched in the fall, she said.
While acknowledging the higher education community had some initial reservations, Gee said, “Over the last 18 months, as the higher education community has begun to think more critically about these massive online classes, opportunities are abounding and faculty are using technology creatively. So, rather than MOOCs threatening research universities, they are becoming our best friend.”
Provost Wheatly also reminded the Board that the Higher Learning Commission would be visiting campus next week for WVU’s 10-year reaccreditation, and thanked all those involved with the extensive process.
In other action, the Board approved:
- An Athletics facilities master plan and bond resolution – with some projects expected to begin later this year; others in the coming years – estimated to cost $106 million, with $75 million in bonds made possible from guaranteed annual revenue from the Big 12 Conference, $6 million from a capital expenditure fund in the multimedia rights contract with IMG and $25 million in private donations through the Mountaineer Athletic Club.
- Phase 2 of a Personal Rapid Transit system revitalization program and bond resolution to replace the Automatic Train Control System, substations and electrical gear at an estimated cost of around $53 million. The work will be financed through revenue bonds supported by WVU fees ($10 per semester increase through 2019) and federal grants.
Both plans will go before the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission for approval at this month’s meeting.
- WVU building and roadway namings, including Morrill Way, a new intersection on Patteson Drive that leads to the new Evansdale Crossing building celebrates the Morrill Land-grant Act which established the a system of colleges and universities like WVU.
The Board also learned that a new firm, CliftonLarsonAllen, will be conducting WVU’s and other state institution’s audits, saving the University some $100,000 annually.
A nominating committee was appointed consisting of Drew Payne, who will chair, along with Diane Lewis, Rob Alsop and David Alvarez to present a new slate of officers during the June 4-6 Board meetings at Jackson’s Mill.
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