The University System of New Hampshire voted to move forward with negotiations two major development projects at UNH this morning.
The projects include replacing two undergraduate residence halls with a boutique hotel and parking garage, and building a new, privately-owned graduate housing complex at 66 Main Street in Durham.
UNH will be working with Elliott Sidewalk Communities on both of the projects. That company is set to purchase the Main St. property, and will completely fund the cost of the hotel and parking garage.
The developer says it will charge graduate students less than the market rate at the proposed housing complex.
Family housing has been a point of concern for UNH’s graduate student senate, since Forest Park, the university’s only housing for families and married couples on campus, was vacated in June. It’s set to be demolished this summer due to deterioration and major infrastructure problems.
UNH didn’t confirm that family housing would be included in the current plan for the housing complex, but says it continues to work with the developers on that possibility. Since the new graduate housing would be off campus and subject to town tax laws, UNH wouldn’t have to pay the Oyster River school district the $17,600 fee per child to make up for lost property taxes, a cost UNH experienced in the past with Forest Park.
The hotel will displace 300 undergraduate beds. Enrollment is down by about that much this year, but UNH said it plans to eventually replace those dorms with suite-style housing. The replacement of those dorms will cost UNH about $35 million, according to UNH's proposal.
Shawn Jasper, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture and ex-officio for the USNH board of trustees, grew so frustrated with the plan that he left the meeting halfway through. He felt it didn’t make sense to replace residence halls with the hotel only so UNH could invest in suite-style housing for upperclassmen, when underclassmen are the ones in need of the housing, Jasper said.
UNH will continue to own the land the proposed hotel will sit on, but the building will be handed back to the university in 60 years with a projected $17 million return on investment. The project is expected to improve recruitment, trustees said at the meeting, and create the opportunity for a learning lab for hospitality students.