Construction has begun on a new student housing complex at UNCW on a site that formerly held hurricane-damaged student apartments.
University of North Carolina Wilmington officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the $147 million project.
"The project offers us the opportunity to transform the southeastern portion of our campus, enhancing the UNCW experience for many generations of students to come," Peter Groenendyk, head of student housing, said at the event.
The work is part of more than $400 million in construction happening on the university's campus between new builds and repairs to damage caused by Hurricane Florence in September, said UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli.
Planning for the new student housing has been in the works for about two years, Sartarelli said, but damage from the hurricane forced the university to demolish 13 student apartment units, which was on the lot, a little earlier than planned.
"We could not recover those buildings. So we had been planning to demolish them anyway in order to set up this new complex. So we accelerated the process, and they are all gone ... and we are ready to start building," Sartarelli said.
Demolition of student apartments began in late December and site preparations soon followed, university officials said. Foundation work for the new project began in in late January.
The nearly 400 students who were housed in those apartments at the time of the storm were placed in different locations on campus, in hotels or in off-campus facilities.
But the new public-private student housing project will hold many more students.
Groenendyk said more than 1,800 students will live in the development when complete.
"We look forward to working with our design and construction partners to develop buildings prepared to weather storms like a Hurricane Florence and more," Sartarelli said of the new project. "In fact, our roofs on this project will withstand 135 mph-plus winds."
The project, called Student Housing Village, though no official name has been given to the development, will involve the construction of four buildings. Two buildings are scheduled for completion in the fall of 2020 and the remaining two the year after, Groenendyk said.
"The first two buildings will be designed in a traditional pod style and are intended for a freshman,” Groenendyk added. "We plan to house upperclassman, transfers and some freshmen in the second two buildings, and they are going to be designed in a suite-style arrangement."
Overall, the construction will have more than 430,000 square feet of space, he said.
The development will also include a success center, where students can find academic, advising and career assistance, as well as two classrooms, two maker spaces and dining venues, Groenendyk said.
"And as impressive as these facts are, the buildings' true value is going to be measured by the transformative impact that they're going to have on our campus and many future generations of Seahawks," he said.
The development is happening through a public-private partnership
, unique to UNCW's campus construction.
"Public-private partnership this is a collaboration between us, the construction company and a financial company that's a nonprofit, and that company then does all the financing, and we sign a ground lease with them. So we are authorizing them to build on this property, and we'll be using the facility for 40 years and that reverts back to the university at the end of the process," Sartarelli explained of the partnership.
The development is being designed by Clark Nexsen Architecture and Engineering and constructed by Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, which closed on financing, according to an announcement in January.
The Collegiate Housing Foundation is the national nonprofit entity involved in the project. Officials said in January, that the partnership involved the issuance of $147.6 million in bonds.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect the name of Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions.