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Eastern Michigan University launches major student housing project

University Buildings

Eastern Michigan University launches major student housing project

The institution is working with Gilbane Development Company to build or renovate more than 2,700 on-campus beds.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | January 19, 2022
Rendering of new housing at Eastern Michigan University
This conceptual rendering shows new residence halls that are planned for Eastern Michigan University's campus in Ypsilanti, Mich., replacing some student housing that hasn't been remodeled in half a century. Image: Eastern Michigan University

Eastern Michigan University (EMU), in Ypsilanti, Mich., recently selected Gilbane as a development and builder partner to lead a three-year campus housing initiative that will build two new residence halls, renovate existing campus housing, and demolish outdated buildings.

EMU and Gilbane Development Company have agreed to invest more than $200 million to expand campus housing with the construction of Lakeview Apartments, a 400-bed residence hall adjacent to the school’s Student Center; and Westview Apartments, a 300-bed residence hall that will serve as a gateway between EMU’s west and main campuses.

The University is also investing in the renovation of 2,025 existing beds with improvements that include new air conditioning, new finishes in bathroom areas, and the installation of life-safety technology. Shared amenities spaces and upgrades will facilitate social interaction among residents.

This equity initiative, known as the “Welcome Home 2025” plan, represents an acceleration of infrastructure and facilities investment that has been underway at EMU for several years. “It is now time to turn our attention to a leading student mandate—to revitalize University housing to meet the needs of today’s students,” said EMU’s President James Smith, in a prepared statement.

BENIGN NEGLECT IN HOUSING STOCK

The goals of this plan are to keep student housing affordable, to ensure a high-quality resident life experience, and to get students engaged in the design process. In 2018, the University retained Rieth Jones Advisors to coordinate the Master Plan process, which included surveying students about their interests and demands. In April 2019, the University’s student government approved a resolution that noted the majority of on-campus housing hadn’t been renovated in over 50 years. Last July, the University sent RFPs for the housing construction and renovation to four firms, and its Board of Regents approved the partnership with Gilbane Development Company last December 9.

The project team includes a design-build joint venture between Gilbane Building Company and Clark Construction, with Mackey Mitchell Architects as the project’s AOR and Moody Nolan as associate design architect. Gilbane Development Company is the developer and financing coordinator for the project whose construction is scheduled to begin next fall and be completed by the fall of 2025.

This team has collectively worked on 55 student housing projects that delivered over 60,000 beds during the last 30 years.

BOND FINANCING

However, the University is emphatic that it is not interested in privatizing its student housing. “EMU will continue to own all on-campus student housing facilities,” it states on its website. “EMU will also continue to operate all aspects of the residence life operation, including hiring/supervising RAs, processing housing applications and assigning rooms, collecting payments from students, and managing compliance with housing agreements.”

To pay for this project, the University entered into a ground lease agreement with a 501(c)3 tax-exempt entity that will issue tax-exempt bonds underwritten by Barclays. The nonprofit entity is responsible for servicing the debt. Gilbane and Clark will receive $200-plus million for construction activity, plus $135 million for renovations over the term of the agreement, as well as a property management fee to maintain the facilities.

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