YSU student housing plan stalls


By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A proposal for a Columbus company to lease Youngstown State University land to build a $7.8 million student-apartment complex prompted questions from university trustees.

The Trustees Finance and Facilities Committee tabled the resolution at a meeting Tuesday.

The resolution was to authorize leasing of 3.4 acres on Fifth Avenue to Hallmark Campus Communities of Columbus, for development of student housing.

The proposal calls for a $7.8 million, 162-bed, four-story apartment-style complex financed by the developer.

Dominic Marchionda, who owns the Flats on Wick, which provides housing for students, attended Tuesday’s meeting but declined to comment afterward.

There was no discussion before Trustee Ted Roberts moved to table the resolution for “further research and study.”

“We had not had any details about the proposal, so it needed more in-depth review,” Roberts said Wednesday.

He said trustees saw an artists’ rendering of the proposed project a couple of weeks ago although talks with the administration likely have been going on longer.

Roberts said he wants the process for determining the use of the property to be public.

“We just need more information,” he said. Tuesday “was the first day we had some detail, but it was not enough.”

Trustee Leonard Schiavone said that by law, trustees must be provided plans for such a project, and they haven’t been.

“We don’t have them yet,” said Greg Morgione, YSU’s associate general counsel, adding that he would provide them to trustees when they’re received.

He said the drawings should be done by mid-June.

The terms of the lease still are being negotiated with the company and the state, Ron Cole, a university spokesman, said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, President Jim Tressel said he was approached by Fortress Real Estate Companies of Atlanta and Hallmark Campus Communities who are partnering on the proposed project. Because it’s a ground lease, no bidding is required, he said.

A ground lease is typically a long-term lease under which the landlord assumes all improvements to the property upon the lease’s expiration.

Because YSU is a public institution, the lease requires approval, not only by YSU trustees, but also by Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office and approval of Gov. John Kasich or the director of the Department of Administrative Services or a designee.

Tressel said the company has experience developing housing and retail at other universities including Ohio University, the University of Akron and Kent State and Ohio State universities.

“It’s a company that’s done a lot of these projects on college campuses,” he said. “They’re working closely with the state to see if we can get this done on our campus.”

The project was to be completed by fall 2016. That’s when YSU projects an increased demand for apartment-style housing.

Tressel said that developing that area of campus, bordered by Lincoln, Fifth, Rayen and Belmont avenues, for housing continues efforts to develop that gateway into YSU and the city.

The most recent example is the athletic fields on Fifth, completed in 2013, which included a soccer field, an eight-lane all-weather track, a softball field, lighting and other amenities.

The same trustees committee approved spending $800,000 for beautification of Wick Avenue on the other side of campus. That project is a joint effort among the university, the city and Youngstown CityScape.

Last month, city council authorized contracts for the improvement work. The city’s portion of the project – which includes replacing a waterline and a sewer line, moving above-ground utility poles underground and paving the street – is expected to cost about $4 million.

CityScape is raising private funds for the utility move.

Tressel said YSU’s portion would be used to rebury the utility lines.

The committee also approved a land exchange with Charlie and Margaret Staples. YSU would get the Staples’ property on Grant Street, which is appraised at $10,500. The Staples, who own Charlie Staples Restaurant, would get three university parcels, two on West Rayen Avenue and one on Lincoln Avenue, with a total appraised value of $10,700.

Morgione said the swap will allow Staples to enhance his restaurant parking lot. The Grant Street property is in an area where the university continues to acquire property, although there are no plans for it.

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