Dormitory-style housing would be built blocks from the campus of IUPUC, Ivy Tech, Harrison College and Purdue College of Technology under a plan being considered by city officials.
College and city officials hope to attract housing for 100 to 400 students, with units consisting of several shared bedrooms surrounding common rooms including a living room and kitchen in a three-story building or buildings. If the required approvals happen quickly enough, the officials hope ground could be broken by August and the housing would be available for the 2014 school year.
Columbus Municipal Airport officials have met with three developers, and taken a phone call from a fourth, who are interested in building student housing, said Brian Payne, the airport director. The property being considered for the student housing is at the southernmost edge of the airport’s property, just south of the intersection of Chapa Drive and Ray Boll Boulevard.
Although the airport has yet to request proposals, developers are lining up for the opportunity, he said.
Idea follows trend
Marwan Wafa, vice chancellor and dean of IUPUC, said the school will not be directly involved with the private student housing developments but cheers the possibility. He said the trend in universities is toward privately owned housing.
If it were up to his preferences, the student housing already would be here, Wafa said. He recalls meeting with the family of one prospective student who based their choice on whether or not housing was available. When they found that IUPUC had nothing to offer, the school lost the student.
“A lot of the students are first generation, eager to explore the university experience, which includes living away from home and having their own schedule of studying, breaks and walking to campus,” Wafa said.
IUPUC’s student body composition varies yearly, but about 60 percent are of traditional college age, while about 40 percent are older students, Wafa said.
IUPUC, Ivy Tech and Purdue College of Technology have conducted three joint student housing surveys and found that about 68 percent of the students surveyed either are interested or possibly are interested in student housing, according to 2012 results.
Adding student housing also could increase the population of students, which could encourage the state to offer more programs, bigger facilities and more degrees in a snowball effect, Wafa said.
Wafa and Payne said an added benefit to the creation of student housing would be the likely growth of supporting businesses, such as restaurants, stores and banks.
Between the three schools, there are about 10,000 students. When faculty and employees at other airport properties are added in, Wafa said there is a community of probably 20,000 people on the airport land daily with virtually no services being offered north of the Central Avenue/National Road intersection.
“I don’t think anyone in the past really looked carefully at this part of town as a viable economic development,” Wafa said.
The more college and university activity in the city, the more employers will be drawn to Columbus because of its educated workforce, Mayor Kristen Brown said.
“IUPUC is just critically important to the community in terms of the services they provide in getting our workforce educated and skilled,” Brown said. “The more folks we can have up there enrolled in their programs, the better it is ultimately for our workforce development and therefore our economic development.”
The possibility of more rent-paying businesses at the airport is a major lure, Payne said. The airport is completely self-funded and does not rely on tax dollars, which means it is always searching for tenants willing to rent property and build at the airport, Payne said.
“(The schools) are valuable to us because they bring more exposure to the airport property,” Payne said. “We have thousands of students and hundreds of professors who come to airport property because of those institutions. Certainly that exposure is something invaluable to us. It is extremely attractive.”
The land rent charged to a student housing developer likely would be comparable to other tenants at the airport, at between $3,500 and $5,000 a year per acre, Payne said. If the project receives the necessary approvals, serious negotiations would begin with a developer, he said. The three developers he met with are in the process of coming up with site plans and artist renderings and should have proposals ready within a month or two, he said.
The city-owned airport has 473 acres that is not being used for aviation purposes and can be developed according to plans approved by the city in 2008. That includes the colleges, businesses and other agencies already at the airport.
Because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations, the city only can rent land and not sell to developers. There also are federal limitations on the types of uses of the property and where those can be located. For example, the FAA will not allow permanent homes or apartments on the airport property, but will allow transient uses such as student housing or a nursing home, Payne said. Even those developments are not allowed directly in line with the landing and takeoff approaches, he said.
The airport board on Tuesday will consider asking the city to change some of the allowed uses in its planned unit development guidelines. The proposal then would have to be approved by the Columbus Plan Commission and City Council. Payne said if everything went positively, the changes could be approved by May or early June.
The development arrangement allows a developer to make use of property that normally would not be allowed under existing zoning, said Jeff Bergman, the city/county planning director. The airport development has four major concentration areas, none of which actually allow for student housing, he said. The proposed student housing location would fall under the Edu/Life Sciences Center area, Bergman said.
About eight acres initially would be considered for student housing, Payne said. However, if the idea took off, the city has more property across the street in another open field that could be added. To the west of the proposed student housing is the Silver Oaks Health Campus.
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