University to sell three properties

Although plans for construction of Seattle Pacific’s proposed University Center have been suspended since last October, the university is moving forward with the sale of three properties that would help fund its construction.

SPU is currently in a contingency period with two different buyers for the sale of the Robbins Apartments, the tennis courts adjacent to Queen Anne Bowl and the Fulton Parking Lot, pending inspection and confirmation of financing, said Dr. Don Mortenson, vice president of business and planning.

This sale includes the family housing units south of the Robbins Apartments and one staff residence.

Upon completion of the sale, the residential units on the properties will no longer be available for staff or student occupation, but the sale agreement will allow current tenants of the Robbins Apartments and other units to retain their residency through the end of Spring Quarter, SPU President Dr. Philip Eaton said in an email to staff and faculty last week.

Dr. Mortenson said this sale is an important step toward reviving plans for the construction of the proposed University Center, a $72 million complex that would include the combination of the music, theater and art buildings and the creation of new classrooms and a new faculty center.

“These properties are outside of our institutional zone,” Dr. Mortenson said. “We couldn’t build on them anyway, so they’re not much use to us. We want to sell them so we can invest in properties inside our zone.”

These properties used to be a part of the university’s institutional zone, but it has since been altered.

The Robbins Apartments are currently still available for student occupation under the Grandfather Clause, which in certain cases allows old rules to continue to apply to existing situations, but SPU cannot build on the land the apartments sit on.

Dr. Eaton wrote in an email to faculty and staff last October that plans for constructing the new University Center would be postponed until “the right economic conditions emerge and the right funding falls into place.”

This sale, which Dr. Mortenson said has a high probability of reaching completion, would yield funds that would be set aside for the University Center project.

“If this sale goes through, we’d have two of the three sources of funding we need for the [University Center],” Dr. Mortenson said.

The other two sources of funding are donations and the use of tax-exempt bonds. Since SPU is a nonprofit organization, it is eligible for these bonds and has secured them for projects in the past. The construction of the Science Building, Emerson Hall and Otto Miller Hall were all funded in part by tax-exempt bonds, Dr. Mortenson said.

“It’ll be up to the new president and the Board [of Trustees] to make decisions about moving forward with the University Center,” Dr. Mortenson said. “It’s still a priority project; it’s just tabled right now because we don’t have the funds.”

Dr. Mortenson said he didn’t think the loss of one on-campus apartment complex would have a great impact on student housing. The Robbins Apartments can house 115 students, and the facility is currently at 83 percent occupancy.

“It may be an impact for one year until we build another facility,” he said. “I would think we’ll have a high demand, but we’ll be able to house almost everyone.”

He said apartments are usually only occupied by upperclassmen.

The priority for the university is to house all freshmen and sophomore students and to let upperclassmen fill the remaining available spaces.

Last fall, SPU welcomed its largest-ever freshman class to campus, prompting filled-to-capacity residence halls. Eight freshmen were placed in the Robbins Apartments rather than in traditional halls due to space constraints.

While this academic school year has seen an increased demand for housing, before a new facility is built, the university must determine whether this increase is a trend or a one-time spike, Dr. Mortenson said.

“We’re ready to go as soon as we think it’s needed,” Dr. Mortenson said, referring to the proposed construction of a new residence hall.

This new hall would sit on the Irondale Avenue West city block and would have a bed count of 150.

Dr. Mortenson said the new residence hall would take approximately 15 months to build, but SPU does not want to move forward in haste.

“You don’t want to overbuild,” he said. “You want to build just shy of what you need. [Whether construction of a new residence hall] happens in 2013 depends a bit on what happens in the fall.”

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Title: University to sell three properties | Author: Megan Hoye | Section: News | Published Date: 2012-03-07 | Internal ID: 8104