Texas Woman's University is about to be one step closer to having new dormitories and dining options on campus by fall 2019.
Preliminary plans are complete for the Residential Village Project — three residence halls and a stand-alone dining facility — east of Bell Avenue where there's currently a soccer field.
The residence halls will be four stories tall and hold a total of 875 beds, and the dining area will be 30,000 square feet. They will sit behind Pioneer Hall. Construction isn't slated to begin until February, after project details are finalized.
University officials asked the Board of Regents during its meeting Thursday to approve an agreement that allows a public/private partnership to move forward with the project. They also announced the university signed a pre-development agreement with Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions last month to handle the project.
"The project needs to support campus identity and have a dining facility to serve the entire residential population," said Monica Mendez-Grant, vice president for student life. "The deal structure allows for TWU to control student experience, and it seems seamless for the student while not negatively impacting our debt capacity."
The structure of the partnership is a little complicated. While Balfour Beatty will develop the project, a third-party nonprofit will lease the soccer field area from TWU and be the project owner.
The board is expected to approve Friday the first major step to solidify the partnership structure — signing a letter to declare the school's intent to have Collegiate Housing Foundation finance and oversee the development. CHF, as the third-party nonprofit, will be in charge of securing bonds for the project, building and operations with input from TWU officials, said BJ Crain, interim vice president for finance and administration.
By doing this, TWU doesn't have to pay millions on the front end of the project, and instead pays when it is getting income from housing fees. The university will lease the soccer field area to CHF, which gives TWU the control it wants over the project without the risk, Crain said.
"Basically, a key element of a P3 [public/private partnership] structure is a nonprofit foundation that basically owns the project," Crain said. "As the project nears completion, we’ll enter into a management agreement with the foundation."
That management agreement is anticipated to say TWU treats the housing units as other dormitories on campus, and TWU will be in control of all operating decisions, such as rental rates, she said.
The length of the deal and the direct costs to the university will be determined once the bond structure and project costs are finalized. Right now, the project will cost an estimated $78 million, said university spokeswoman Amanda Simpson. This is the first time TWU has planned to use this type of partnership for construction on campus.
Adding housing addresses a long-standing demand on campus for residential students, Mendez-Grant said. For several years, the school has had to rent out blocks of apartments to house students, and at the start of each year house students who enrolled late in the summer in hotels.
University officials worked with Brailsford & Dunlavey, a national consulting firm, as a development adviser for housing over the past year. TWU paid the firm $1.3 million to help figure out what kind of housing students needed on campus and how to go about developing and funding it.
A final scope of the project, cost projections for the university and a draft of the lease with CHF will be reviewed during the next Board of Regents meetings scheduled for Nov. 1-2.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.
FEATURED PHOTO: A front-facing rendering of the proposed dormitories at Texas Woman's University. The facilities will be constructed by Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions and open in fall 2019.