The new project will "help fulfill the university's strategic housing master plan, which addresses the need for additional beds for international, professional and veteran students," plus the growing freshmen and sophomore classes, according to WVU.
Bill Hutchens, WVU's general counsel, said the development would turn around the Sunnyside district, a longtime hotspot for post-game riots and street fires.
"We're demolishing really rundown, poorly conditioned housing and bringing in a very large, upscale complex for student housing that's cutting edge and modern," Hutchens said. "WVU will manage the property just as it does other housing facilities. If you look at other clusters of housing around town where students live, they don't have the problems Sunnyside does. A change in environment, in and of itself, is going to turn this place around."
Townhouses also are planned and will feature a pedestrian-only streetscape between them and the main two buildings.
Grimm and Parker Architects of Calverton, Md., were selected by the developers to design this mixed-use complex based on experience with other higher-education and student-housing initiatives.
WVU and a private firm, Paradigm Development Group LLC, reached the agreement in May, but state lawmakers didn't learn about it until last month. The first time most WVU students, staff and Morgantown residents knew about any of the plan was when the land purchase was revealed this week. Many students found out through an email Friday morning.
Hutchens said that because Paradigm approached WVU about the deal, the plans were kept quiet.
"This deal came to us. Paradigm was already putting this together, and they came to us with the proposition, and we went from there. Because we were doing a very large and complicated transaction with a private entity, of course it was confidential," he said.
"There is nothing unusual about this. This is a perfectly acceptable course of business with a private firm. We didn't go out on the streets and advertise this project."
The project is expected to generate $1.5 million in construction-related business and occupation taxes in its initial phase, according to Weese.
Additional taxes, related to student housing and retail rents for the city, also are expected, as well as income for the city from other businesses that might locate in the neighborhood because of retail amenities included in the WVU project, according to a release.
University officials will begin contacting students and other tenants immediately to offer alternative housing options and assistance with moving. Students are advised to call 304-293-5555 for housing information and assistance.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.