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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Although West Virginia University officials said Friday they want to start demolishing buildings on their newly acquired Sunnyside land in December and January, they said students won't have to move before their leases are up.
Instead, university officials said, they hope to make it as attractive as possible for students and other tenants to move somewhere else.
"We can't force anybody out," said WVU Housing Director Corey Farris. "We would like for them to [move], and we'll talk to them to see what it is we can do to move them along, but there's still a lease that's there."
In a news release Friday, WVU officials said the school had entered into a $70 million contract with Paradigm Development Group LLC to build a 297,000-square-foot residential and retail complex, partly in hopes of beautifying the notoriously raucous area of Morgantown.
The last paragraph of the release stated that WVU officials would "immediately begin contacting students and other tenants to offer alternative housing options and assistance with moving," and that "demolition is expected to begin in late December or early January."
That led many students to believe the university would void their leases in Sunnyside and force them out of their apartments.
Farris said that's not true, and WVU spokesman John Bolt confirmed that tenants would not be forced to move out of Sunnyside to speed up construction.
Farris said he spent all day Friday in the Sunnyside area, talking with student and nonstudent tenants, trying to alleviate their concerns about the new construction.
The first round of the demolition reportedly will affect residents living on University Avenue, Grant Avenue, Third Street and Houston Drive. Farris said he does not yet have a general number of how many tenants will have to move before the demolition can begin.
WVU officials said they plan to compensate tenants who agree to break their lease. The school, for instance, will pay the difference for the remainder of their current lease if a tenant finds an apartment with a higher rent.