ASU Trustees Approve Student Housing, Hotel Partnerships for Jonesboro Campus
LITTLE ROCK — Two public-private partnerships approved today by the Arkansas State University Board of Trustees will expand student housing and facilitate development of an upscale hotel and convention center that will support a hospitality management program at the A-State campus in Jonesboro.
ASU System President Chuck Welch said both projects involve ground leases on university property, facilities that will be built and maintained at no cost to the campus, new sources of revenue and enhanced services for students.
“These are transformative capital projects that will enhance Arkansas State in many ways without the burden of debt,” Welch said. “Chancellor Tim Hudson and his team have done an outstanding job developing these opportunities and being creative with partnerships at a time when we have no state funding for capital projects.”
The university is entering into a 35-year land lease with Zimmer Development Company of Wilmington, N.C., for its first public-private partnership to construct on-campus housing. A 350-bed undergraduate facility on the east side of campus and a 165-bed complex primarily for graduate students on the west side are set to begin construction in May with a completion date for the fall 2017 semester.
“Arkansas State is increasingly a destination university, and our student community has grown,” Hudson said. “Living on campus has many academic and social benefits. These projects allow us to accommodate students who want to reside on campus throughout their career.”
Zimmer will construct and maintain the units while Arkansas State will manage and market the two complexes. During the initial years, Zimmer will pay $200,000 per year for the undergraduate land lease and $105,000 for the graduate area. The structures will become A-State property at the close of the lease.
A 50-year lease with Jonesboro Hotel Partners LLC, led by Tim O’Reilly of Springfield, Mo., will allow for the development of a 205-bed Embassy Suites hotel, a 40,000-square-foot convention center and a Houlihan’s restaurant on Red Wolf Boulevard. The facilities are strategically located near Centennial Bank Stadium, the Convocation Center and Fowler Center. The developer will pay all costs associated with construction, operation and maintenance of the property.
“We’ve discussed this for quite some time because the size and scope required considerable consideration,” Welch said. “We believe this could be transformative for our campus in a number of ways – including a hospitality management program, student recruitment, and visibility – that set us apart from our peers.”
Dr. Tim Langford of Little Rock, a trustee, said his decision to support the project ultimately was based on “what’s best for our students” and all the benefits for the university, particularly the hospitality management program and the impact on student recruitment. Trustee Stacy Crawford of Jonesboro added that “it’s an amazing opportunity for our campus and the location is outstanding.”
“In my eight years of service on the board, we have made some landmark decisions that have affected Arkansas State,” Trustee Ron Rhodes of Cherokee Village said. “This has probably been in the top 10 of ones I have struggled with the most. I appreciate the information for an informed decision.”
Trustee Niel Crowson of Jonesboro voted against the measure and said: “I would like to first thank our administrative team for their efforts in consistently seeking ways to diversify revenue for our university. I do appreciate the pro-active mindset of our team. However, I am not convinced this is the correct step in our development as a university.”
Crowson added that he would nonetheless work with his colleagues “to ensure this, and every other initiative we undertake, will be successful.”
In other business, the Board:
- Voted to confer Chancellor Emeritus status to Dr. Eugene McKay, who retired as chancellor of ASU-Beebe in January after almost 50 years of service to the campus.
- Approved room and board rates for the Jonesboro and Beebe campuses effective for the first summer term 2016.
- Approved an optional voluntary retirement program for employees at ASU-Mountain Home.
Following an executive session, the Board approved several academic and non-academic appointments.