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NKU Seeks Developer for Mixed Use, Student Housing Project

A brand new mixed-use development could land at the entrance of Northern Kentucky University at the corner of U.S. 27 and Nunn Drive. The university is seeking submissions from qualified developers that would design, build, and finance a mixed-use development and new student housing facilities at the site, The River City News has learned.

The development project was referenced publicly at last week's Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting with the county's economic development officer, Seth Cutter, made a presentation about projects taking shape across the county.

NKU is hosting a pre-proposal conference on March 30 and has set a proposal deadline of April 28.

"This site represents the front door to our campus, and the University has had a long-standing interest in developing it," said NKU spokeswoman Amanda Nageleisen. "We also have a growing need for student housing. In this era of limited financial resources, we are being responsible and examining all of our options."

According to the request for proposal (RFP) created by NKU, the development would be placed between U.S. 27 and BB&T Arena on the campus. The mixed-use component may include retail opportunities like restaurants (excluding fast food and drive-thru, as well as gas stations and bars), offices, student housing and/or market rate housing, and parking (primarily underground) as needed. A hotel is listed as optional. 

The student housing component specifies the construction of a 500-bed residence hall as a first step toward the goal of placing 3,000 student residents on campus by 2026. New student housing can be built on the U.S. 27 site or on a mutually agreeable campus-owned site, the RFP stipulates.

From the RFP:

The University intends to issue a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to the selected Developer and then negotiate a mutually acceptable Affiliation Agreement and Ground Leases for the Development. The initial priority is the Mixed-Use Development and the 500-bed residence hall; the University is very interested in having the latter facility complete on July 1, 2018, for fall 2018 occupancy. Further execution of the agreed upon plan will occur as stipulated in the Affiliation Agreement. To the extent that Kentucky law requires, construction would be accomplished utilizing the Kentucky Labor Cabinet’s prevailing wage rates.
The Developer’s planning shall take into consideration the requirement of maintaining at least 98% of the beds which were online the previous fall semester, and at no time below 2,004.
NKU expects to have $125 million in public/private partnership development authority in 2016-2018 biennium, intended to encompass the mixed-use development and the student housing. The developer will construct and may own the residence hall, depending on the agreement reached with the university. The Developer will renovate/refurbish/renew and/or demolish/replace existing student housing, and will increase/construct student housing, to reach 3,000 beds by 2026, according to the RFP. NKU will reserve the right to approve any commercial tenants at the site. 
The RFP calls for a pedestrian-friendly development along the "ceremonial" entrance to the university, and cites a partnership between the university and the City of Highland Heights in wanting to create a pedestrian-friendly and sustainable town center. 
The student housing component of the project could be built in conjunction with the rest of the development at the same site, or situated elsewhere. NKU has identified additional areas where new student housing could be constructed: the area to the south and east of Northern View Apartments (a privately-owned facility); the area currently occupied by the small building west of Callahan Hall as well as the area of Parking Lot Z which would require the construction of structured parking; and any other site owned by NKU that us agreed upon by the university and the developer.
An estimated cost for the project was not listed in the RFP but the university anticipates that the total cost "will be substantial". Because NKU wants to minimize the impact on its debt capacity and credit rating, the developer will include a significant investment in the project.
This latest RFP is the third issued for the site since 2006.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Images taken from RFP