Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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UNLV hopes to attract more students to campus with new apartment-style dorms

UNLV is planning to build apartment-style dormitories that officials hope will be open to students by fall 2015.

The university, which is trying to transition from a commuter campus to a residential college, has long been trying to build apartment-style dorms to complement its five traditional dormitories and encourage more on-campus residents.

The apartment-style dorms are favored by upperclassmen, graduate students and non-traditional students, who tend to be older and seek the flexibility of apartment living.

UNLV hopes to partner with AVS to build and operate the new dorms, which will be called Midtown Park and ultimately house 3,000 beds.

AVS is a private firm founded by Las Vegas real estate developers American Nevada Company and the Vista Group. (American Nevada is a sister company of the Greenspun Media Group, which owns the Las Vegas Sun.)

According to documents released Friday by Nevada's higher education leaders, UNLV would purchase about 14 acres of land near the intersection of Maryland Parkway and Cottage Grove Avenue, just north of the university, for $17 million.

The land would be leased to AVS for 35 years to maintain and operate the dorms. UNLV would be responsible for marketing and leasing the apartments, as well as collecting rent. UNLV would retain 3.5 percent of rent to cover its costs.

If UNLV decides at any point to nix the partnership with AVS, it faces the possibility of having to reimburse $250,000 in expenses.

The 14-acre property is owned by AVS, and hosts University Park, a 280-unit apartment complex that is over 40 years old. University Park is facing lender pressure to resolve its loan issues, according to the documents.

If the $17 million land purchase goes through and the dorm project moves forward, residents of University Park will be displaced. The complex's occupancy rate is 94 percent, about 15 percent of which are UNLV students.

AVS took over management of UNLV's on-campus student housing this year, and worked with university officials in developing a campus-wide master plan, which was approved by regents in November.

In March, AVS brought the Midtown Park proposal to UNLV officials. The apartment-style dorms will likely be modeled after the Vista Del Sol dorm at Arizona State University, but no architect designs have been commissioned yet.

AVS plans to partner with Educational Facilities Development Services to build the dorms. The Arizona-based developer is currently completing more than $70 million of public school projects, and has contracts to construct housing on two private universities, three more public schools projects and a performing arts center. The company is also in negotiations with a number of charter schools.

The construction is expected to take two phases.

The first phase will deliver up to 2,000 beds by fall 2015. The dorms will be a mix of one-, two- and four-bedroom units on the west side of the property.

The second phase would add another 1,000 beds, only if there is student demand.

UNLV's plans were made public through documents released Friday by the Nevada System of Higher Education. The project is expected to be revenue-neutral for the university.

Regents are expected to vote on UNLV's memorandum of understanding with AVS at a special meeting July 26.

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