Saturday, December 9, 2023

Williamsburg City Council Approves Sale Of Tax-Exempt Bonds To Build William & Mary’s New “West Campus”

WILLIAMSBURG –The College of William & Mary’s plan to replace 80 percent of its student housing and build a new dining hall moved a step forward with the approval of a request from the city’s Economic Development Authority to allow for the issuance of up to $350 million in tax-exempt bonds to fund construction. The City Council unanimously approved the sale at its May 11 meeting.

Neither the city nor the EDA are responsible in any way for repaying the bond debt, which is being orchestrated by the Provident Resources Group Inc., a nonprofit whose “primary mission is to assist higher education institutions with financing capital projects,” according to Steve Hicks, president and CEO of the firm, which is headquartered in Baton Rouge, LA.

“The bonds must be issued by a duly authorized entity in the state they are being offered, which is why we went through the EDA,” Hicks said. “But they are secured by a ground lease with the college, and the improvements which will be constructed on the grounds. The city is just serving as the conduit through which the bonds are issued.”

The bonds will be repaid with the revenue generated from student housing and dining fees. Hicks expects the bond sale to take place by June 30.

The first piece in a chain of events to create West Campus is the demolition of Yates Hall, a 259-bed freshmen dormitory that has been troubled almost since it opened in 1963. In 2017, Yates was closed to address mold and mildew problems. Demolition is scheduled for this summer. 

In place of Yates Hall and an adjacent parking lot, the college plans to construct three four-story dorms, totaling 700 beds, plus a 50,000-square-foot dining hall. Construction is scheduled to begin in September.

Much of the college’s housing stock is more than 50 years old. A detailed plan approved by the Board of Visitors in 2022 calls for the creation of West Campus, the new name for its housing properties along Ukrop Way near Kaplan Arena.

 In addition to the new dorms in place of Yates, the work that’s part of the agreement with Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, the contractor, includes adding a new residence hall to complete the Lemon-Hardy complex and building a new dining facility to replace The Caf, the largest dining facility on campus, which opened in 1967.

There is also a plan to build a new dorm on Jamestown Road, renovate Monroe and Old Dominion halls, and demolish Reves, Willis, and Hunt halls, and the Green & Gold Village.

The total cost of phase one is estimated at $235 million. It is expected that phase one will be completed by the fall 2025 semester.

When the bonds are paid off, Hicks said the company formed to issue them, Williamsburg Properties LLC, will terminate the ground lease and the assets will go back to the college. The term of the bonds is “not to exceed 40 years.”

Provident Resource Group has done more than 40 similar transactions at colleges around the United States, Hicks said.

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