A college whose roots in New Mexico reach back to the late 1950s will soon see its first student housing complex.
“We are in the final stages of negotiating and finalizing the pre-development agreement,” says Edward DesPlas of a $25 million partnership that will result in a modern facility designed to house up to 380 students.
“Before we even got to the really heavy negotiations in the pre-development agreement, we signed on with Balfour Beatty to spend up to $74,999 in architect and other fees so that we could get the design process rolling,” continues DesPlas, who is the executive vice-president in the office of administrative services for San Juan College.
Balfour Beatty is the Malvern, Pennsylvania-based Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, one of the country’s most productive developers and operators of college and university infrastructure projects.
What is now a private and public partnership for San Juan College is also a project that has been a long time coming.
Founded in 1956 in Farmington as a campus for the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, San Juan College did not become San Juan College until the early 1980s.
During all of that time, students at the college lived off campus sometimes in apartments and houses in Farmington or miles beyond.
“We’ve had arrangements with some apartments that will house up to four or five students in our branded automotive programs,” says DePlas. “And sometimes our energy program has brought in people from the outside who have either stayed in motels or one of the apartments that we’ve reserved for the students.”
But after conducting several studies, showing that students would accept and even embrace having on-campus housing, San Juan College decided to take the plunge, announcing earlier this year a project that will ultimately see mostly four-bedroom, two bathroom units, with a smaller number of two-bedroom, two-bathroom units.
Construction on the northwest side of the Farmington campus, not far from the school’s soccer and baseball fields, is slated to begin next spring.
But first must come the demolition of a 1,800 square foot fire training tower that has been used for the school’s fire science program since 1983.
That roughly $300,000 demolition is being funded by the recent passage of the statewide General Obligation Bond D, providing $5.5 million to the school, money that will also be used for roof replacement projects on the Farmington campus.
A new four-story, 4,600 square-foot fire tower is going up on open campus space off of South Hutton Road, and like the old tower, will be used for live fire, search, and rescue training.
Approved last month by members of the San Juan College Board, the new student housing project, meanwhile, will see the Fairhope, Alabama-based College Housing Foundation as project owner, which will hold the debt and ground lease for the complex.
In deciding to go with Balfour Beatty as project partner, the school picked a construction service whose origin country was launched more than a century ago in Great Britain.
As a part of Balfour Beatty Investments, which, in turn, is a division of Balfour Beatty, the Campus Solutions wing of the company has seen the recent construction of a new 900-bed residence hall at the University of Texas at Dallas; a nearly 1,250-room residence hall at the University of Oklahoma; and the 420-bed apartments at the University of Iowa.
As planned, the new housing complex at San Juan College will include an office, a laundry facility, and ground floor community space.
And with a current enrollment of around 8,000 students, San Juan College may well see additional student housing in the future.
“The projections that our consultants who did the marketing and demand study told us that by the time we get this project up and running, with those 380 beds filled almost immediately, we will probably find that there will be an additional demand out there for another 380 beds,” says DesPlas.
“We’re actually designing the current project with a second phase in mind,” adds DesPlas. “It will be a stand-alone housing as designed now, but when we do the second phase, it will be like almost a mirror image of the same shape and exterior of the original building on the other side of a huge courtyard.”
If all goes according to the announced schedule, the first complex should be finished and ready to accept students in time for the fall 2020 semester.
By Garry Boulard
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