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WVU governors OK Sunnyside property purchase

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia University Board of Governors on Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of more than $14.5 million of property near the downtown campus in Morgantown.

The land, located in the Sunnyside neighborhood, will be used to build "safe and affordable student housing and related amenities," and is expected to be available for occupancy by fall 2014, according to a report submitted by the Board of Governors to the state Legislature's Joint Committee on Government and Finance.

Without discussion, board members approved the issuance of up to $15 million in revenue bonds to buy the property. The motion was quickly approved after a closed-door session, which the board said concerned "matters of commercial competition and legal matters" that did not concern the land deal.

WVU officials would not comment on the details of the sale, which is supposed to close on Thursday.

"Today was the first step in moving forward with the project, and the board authorized WVU officials to move forward with financing of revenue bonds for the purchase, but we are not prepared to discuss the details beyond what's in the public document," said WVU spokeswoman Becky Lofstead. "We hope to be able to discuss it further by week's end."

The purchase includes nearly 40 parcels of land, mostly located on Grant and University avenues, and is part of the university's 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future.

The properties are being purchased from Morgantown-based companies, Paradigm Development Group and RCL Holding.

Paradigm incorporated less than a year ago and is run by Ryan Lynch, James E. Brown and David R. Martinelli, according to the secretary of state's website.

RCL Holding incorporated last year and is headed by Lynch, who has formed several new companies since March.

The companies have already acquired the property, according to WVU's report.

"WVU, after analysis and consideration, believes that the Property is uniquely positioned to meet critical current and future needs of WVU. WVU recognizes that, to support its 2020 Plan, safe and affordable student housing and related amenities will be critical for success of its educational and academic mission and that property for such housing and related amenities located within close distance to WVU's downtown campus will be in high demand and potentially unavailable," according to the report filed with the Legislature.

The university's strategic plan aims to improve the school by 2020 by boosting the quality of education, promoting diversity and revamping parts of campus -- including adding facilities such as residence halls.

Sunnyside is a hotspot for riots and fires, and the purchase is the latest in a string of attempts to revitalize the area.

In the past five years, more than $100 million has been invested in Sunnyside to replace "dilapidated structures and underused property" with student housing, according to a report released earlier this year by the Sunnyside Up Campus Neighborhood Revitalization Corp.

WVU recently announced plans to buy property adjacent to Sunnyside for $9.5 million.

The members of WVU's Board of Governors are: Chairman Andrew Payne, David Alvarez, J.R. Rogers, Ellen Cappellanti, Lesley Cottrell, Diane Lewis, student body President Zach Redding, Dixie Martinelli, Thomas Flaherty, Raymond Lane, Charles Vest, Robert Griffith, William Nutting, William Wilmoth, Edward L. Robinson, James W. Dailey II and Thomas Clark.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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