Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Construction on Privatized Dorms Coming after Vote; Georgia Colleges to Benefit from Novel Financing Contract with Company

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Construction on Privatized Dorms Coming after Vote; Georgia Colleges to Benefit from Novel Financing Contract with Company

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA | Construction could begin as early as April on new dormitories at Armstrong State University, College of Coastal Georgia, East Georgia State College, Georgia Regents University, the University of North Georgia and other schools, thanks to a novel financing contract approved this week.

It resulted from overwhelming approval by voters on Election Day for a ballot question about exempting the private company from having to pay property tax for the dorms.

The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents voted Wednesday to sign a $517 million deal with Corvias Campus Living, a Cary, N.C., division of Corvias Group of East Greenwich, R.I. Since the 1990s, the company has built, owned and managed housing for the military at 13 installations.

But students won't be living in army barracks because the University System negotiated a contract that includes approval of designs that reflect the goal of integrated study and living, according to Susan Ridley, the system's associate vice chancellor for fiscal affairs. And Corvias offered the best designs for that of the nine teams bidding for the 65-year agreement.

"There shouldn't be any difference for a student," said Georj Lewis, vice president for student affairs at Armstrong. "We're still going to have Armstrong employees working in the residential facilities. We're still going to have Armstrong employees interacting with students."

Ridley has been working toward a contract for 3,700 new beds and the management of 6,200 existing ones on seven campuses for several years. The goal was to relieve taxpayers of some of the $3 billion in debt the system has amassed in dozens of foundations it created as a way to stretch funding.

"The final structure exceeds our expectations," she said, because Corvias will pay more than was projected, creating reserves to construct future dorms or to replace aging ones.

Each school will continue to bill students for rent, provide security and oversee the resident advisers who keep order and dispense advice to residents. What Corvias will do is the cleaning and upkeep, starting July 1.

"We'll see improved operations and maintenance and a greater consistency to the standards of operations and maintenance that we built into the agreements," Ridley said. …

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