College to build apartments, student-friendly retail on Richmond Road

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April 28, 2009

2:53 AM

Students at the College of William and Mary might soon have new housing options both on and off campus.

The College and its property management organization, the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation, are exploring plans to construct new dorm facilities at locations on the College’s campus and on property along Richmond Road.

“Yes, we’re planning to build something,” ResLife Director Deb Boykin said.

The College’s current plan calls for the construction of a student apartment complex adjacent to Wawa on land owned by the Real Estate Foundation.

The land, called the “Triangle Property,” consists of three buildings — the Thiemes House, which accommodates the College’s human resources office, the vacant “Master Craftsmen” building and a building that once housed the College’s finance office.

Real Estate Foundation Director Nancy Buchanan said the Richmond Rd. proposal differs from the College’s other recent ResLife construction projects.

“It’s not a dormitory, it’s apartments,” Buchanan said.

The complex would likely consist of 14 apartments and be able to house approximately 56 upperclassmen.

The plan also reserves space for the construction of student-friendly businesses within the complex.

“We’re not that far down the process yet, but right now we’re looking at a 24-hour diner and other student-friendly retail,” Buchanan said. “We’ve done surveys of students to find out what they would like to see brought in, and we try to match it with retailer interest.”

While the planned building will be the first mixed-use residential housing built at the College, other local universities have already built similar complexes.

“[Old Dominion University] and [Christopher Newport University] have condominium residential buildings with retail,” Boykin said.

While the development of new residential space is one of the College’s top priorities, the Richmond Rd. development is still in the early developmental stages.

The architectural design has not yet been submitted and the land must be rezoned before any construction
can begin.

Because the complex’s construction is being processed through the Real Estate Foundation instead of through the College itself, the construction must follow the City’s zoning laws.

“We’re just starting to work with an architect,” Buchanan said. “We haven’t signed a contract with a contractor, [and] because rezoning is involved, we’ll need to bring it to the City [of Williamsburg].”

The Real Estate Foundation’s ownership of the Triangle property complicates the manner in which the College may use any residential space built on the site.

“The College does not own the land by Wawa,” Vice President for Administration Anna Martin said. “We will have to master lease the building from [the Real Estate Foundation].”

Buchanan said that, while the leasing issue has been raised, no details have been discussed between the College and the Real Estate Foundation.

“Yes, the College will be leasing the student housing portion of the property,” Buchanan said. “We haven’t worked out those details [of the lease] yet. They’ll be determined by the cost of the project and the market.
They will be in line with other prices at the College.”

Recent disputes between the City and the College over students living off-campus could place the project’s development in jeopardy.

Although Buchanan said the City has been supportive of the plan so far.

“[The City has] been very supportive because they recognize the location is close to the College,” Buchanan said. “[And] it’s more of a business location than a residential location. It’s not in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”

While no plans have been finalized, Buchanan is confident the City will approve the Real Estate Foundation’s rezoning application, allowing the proposal to move forward.

“I think the likelihood [of construction] is very good, “Buchanan said. “It would not only provide more housing for students, which is what Williamsburg wants, but more importantly, it provides opportunities for students to socialize.”

While the College is not directly involved with the construction of the residential complex on Richmond Rd., administrators are planning for the construction of additional residential housing on campus.

“It is the wish of [President Reveley] that we add 200 beds on campus,” Martin said.

While the College would like to build an additional on campus dorm, its focus remains with completing the complex on Richmond Rd.

“It’s definitely behind the Triangle property in terms of timing,” Boykin said.

The proposal is included in the College’s biennial Six-Year Capital Layout Plan, which has been sent to Richmond for state approval.

“This is not in the strategic plan,” Martin said. “This is the Six-Year Capital Layout Plan we send to the state.

The state must always give us authority before we build anything. They make the determination and it changes from year to year.”

A site for the new dorm has not been chosen, but several potential sites remain from the plan that produced the Jamestown North and South dorms along Jamestown Road.

“When we built the Jamestown residences, there were several sites the architectural firm pointed out, but a site has not yet been picked,” Boykin said. “Some options include between Randolph and Yates, behind Du Pont and a third Jamestown.”

Jamestown North and South, the College’s newest dorms, currently hold 388 students combined.

According to Boykin, the proposed new dorm would not match the Jamestown dorms in terms of size or amenities.

“This wouldn’t be as high-end as Jamestown,” Boykin said. “Jamestown had a lot of features.”
Boykin said the new dorm would likely be reserved for upperclassmen, but the College’s housing needs could change before the new facility’s completion.

Accurate estimates of the project’s cost cannot be easily made until an architectural plan is selected and contract bids are made. However, the College expects the price to exceed $20 million.

“We have an estimate in the Six-Year Plan for about $21 million, but that’s just a first guess,” Martin said. “Until we have a design, we won’t know.”

The project’s future is largely dependent on whether the College can raise the necessary funds to finance construction.

ResLife’s status as an auxiliary function of the College prevents it from receiving any state funding, meaning the dorm would have to be privately financed.

“Because residence halls are auxiliary, we don’t get any state money for them at all,” Boykin said. “We would pay any debt from the room rents.”

One potential source of funds for the dorms construction would be to name the building after a private benefactor.

“If someone came forth and donated $21 million and said, ‘I want this building named after me,’ we’d be celebrating in the streets,” Boykin said.

The expected completion date of the Richmond Road complex is July 2011, while the on-campus dorm could be completed by 2015.

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