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Minnesota West moving forward with housing

WORTHINGTON — And then there was one.

According to Lori Voss, vice president of administration at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, the top selection to move forward with the campus housing project has been selected.

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“It’s a little bit like being at an auction,” Voss said. “You only need one as long as it’s the right one.”

The deadline for the proposals to be submitted was 4 p.m. Sept. 23. Two proposals were received.

“We have a committee who meets and reviewed the proposals. They did their work on Thursday,” Voss said. “We did make a recommendation to the president, and he approved the recommendation. I did have a short conversation (Monday) with what would appear to be the successful respondent (which has yet to be publicly identified).”

The housing committee is comprised of Dawn Gordon, campus dean; Jeff Harms, director of facilities; Gordon Heitkamp, Worthington campus maintenance supervisor; Alexa Johnson, bookstore manager; Justin Heckenlaible, men’s athletic director and men’s basketball coach; and Voss.

Voss said there is still a lot of work to do before the hopeful completion in the fall of 2015.

“What we will be doing from the college perspective is visiting a couple of the housing developments that this respondent has had involvement in,” she said. “We want to look at not just the units themselves, but the hallways and the common space and the laundry so we have input into the actual design of the facility.”

Within the request for proposal, there are specific guidelines for the rooms and common spaces with the building. For example, each room must be furnished, there must be wired and wireless Internet, and central air conditioning is required.

“One of the organizations — I don’t recall if it was this one or not — wanted to have some commercial space,” Voss said. “Maybe it means vending machines, or maybe it means a little store like they would have in a hotel.”

If everything continues to move forward with this developer, the next step is to negotiate a lease for the ground for the building.

“It’s very similar to the YMCA,” Voss said. “The ground lease will be for 30 years, at the end of which there will be options. The initial ground lease is for 30 years. We’re working at finalizing that ground lease.”

That step needs to be completed by Dec. 31 of this year.

“It’s fair-market value. With the YMCA, it is also fair-market value, which is around 25 cents per square foot,” Voss said. “It ends up to be a fair amount of money.”

She added there could be some in-kind usage within the building that could lower the total cost.

According to Voss, each proposal was very well constructed.

“The proposals were both very professionally done by organizations that do this for a living, which was what our goal was,” she said. “They both had attached to them financing from different sources. There are really three parties — the financer/developer, the design/construction and the ongoing student life portion. They both have student life documented from companies, which is what they do — all their companies do is student life.”

A student life company could enhance activities already offered on campus.

“We have a good on-campus student life, but it’s not been built around residential,” Voss said. “Whatever they can do to enhance it would be great.”

While the project is good for the college, it will also take some burden off housing stock in Worthington.

“We know that housing is an issue. I don’t live there, but I even know housing is an issue,” Voss said. “If we can provide some relief by having students housed on campus, that can help drive the direction on other groups that are working on housing.”