Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance and Operations Matt Dull explains the P3 (public private partnership) currently in progress on campus. He gives an overview of all three phases of the project and the changes to be expected on the West side of campus.
*Please note: References in this conversation to "Schaefer Auditorium" and "Farthing Auditorium" are intended to indicate the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts.
Dave Blanks: Hi folks, this is Dave Blanks from University Communications, and I'm visiting today with Matt Dull. Matt is the assistant vice chancellor for finance and operations, and he is closely involved with the construction projects that we have going on around campus. Is that right, Matt?
Matt Dull: Yeah, that's right.
Dave Blanks: Excellent. Well, thanks for taking time to be with me today.
Matt Dull: Absolutely. Thanks for the time.
Dave Blanks: So, these podcasts, since this is the first one, are going to be regular updates, right?
Matt Dull: That's right.
Dave Blanks: So, we're going to regularly update everyone on the freshest P3 construction information. Why are you the person I'm talking to about this? That would be a good question.
Matt Dull: Yeah. So, I work with Student Affairs areas and their finance and budgets and capital projects. So, this is a big project for University Housing, which is one of our departments, and it's a little more complicated than a normal building and construction project that we'd normally do, and so I'm more heavily involved in this project than maybe some normal construction projects or building projects.
Dave Blanks: Gotcha. So, what is a P3? What is the P3?
Matt Dull: P3 stands for public-private partnership, and there's a bunch of different terms that are out there. A common phrase we say is if you've seen one P3, you've seen one P3. Each deal is different. So, how each university may handle it may be very different from how another university may handle it. And public-private partnerships are not necessarily something new for Appalachian. We've actually been a partner in two other public-private partnerships over the past 20 years.
Dave Blanks: OK. P3 is not exactly the norm, so how is P3 different from how we normally build buildings here at Appalachian?
Matt Dull: So, normally we would build buildings at Appalachian through a design–build process. We'd select the designer. We'd select the contractor. We'd probably spend a couple of years doing the whole design for a building and then spend another 18 months to two years building a building. All of that would require approval by both University of North Carolina System Board of Governors as well as the legislature.
Matt Dull: This particular project is being built on the millennial campus, and the legislature created the Millennial Campus legislation in the early 2000s, which allowed campuses to ground lease certain parts of their campus to third party developers to actually design, develop, construct things like residence halls, hotels and a variety of other services for students, faculty, staff, community that would not necessarily have the exact same approval path as a normal state construction project. A normal project that would come where we're using state dollars to build a building on a university campus.
Dave Blanks: So it's quicker?
Matt Dull: So it's quicker.
Dave Blanks: All right. So, does it mean that we're relinquishing control or operation of the building? It sounds like ... I don’t know … does it sound like we were like pushing that off to somebody else? Is that …?
Matt Dull: Yeah, that's a good question. So, in our particular model of our public-private partnership, we're really not relinquishing any control. So, our staff over in University Housing, our staff in Design and Construction are actively involved every day in the design decisions. The developer has to follow our design standards that the university already has. So, we're intimately involved in every step of the design process, which is really exciting. And the way they design and the process that we've gone through is very fast paced.
Matt Dull: So, our design committee has met for two to four hours every single week for the past six months or so to develop the design for this project. And so normally where we would meet maybe once a month, get together for a couple of hours, bring in an architect and spend kind of a year or almost two years designing a project, we've all committed to these design sprints, basically. Every week we're either on a phone call or in-person meetings moving the design forward each week, which is very different from how we would normally design a project. Takes a lot more commitment of university staff to be involved and dedicated to the project, but it means a six-month design window instead of a 18- or 24-month design window, like a normal project.
Dave Blanks: Right. OK. So, this is one building?
Matt Dull: Well actually, so, phase one is two buildings.
Dave Blanks: How many phases are there?
Matt Dull: There are three phases.
Dave Blanks: Three phases. All right.
Matt Dull: So, phase one starts, we will start construction in mid-February on the first two buildings. So, phase one is two buildings. We're now calling them building 100 and building 200. We will certainly name those buildings at some point along the way.
Dave Blanks: Not too catchy.
Matt Dull: Yeah, building 100 is not the catchiest name for students, but we'll be naming those buildings along the way. Building 100 and 200 are the first two buildings. It has just slightly over 900 beds that will be a part of that, and that phase will be about 18 months of construction. So, we'll start in February and then we will have around 900 beds for students to move into for fall of 2020.
Dave Blanks: Two new dorms?
Matt Dull: Two new dorms.
Dave Blanks: All right, cool. So, where are they going?
Matt Dull: Yeah. So those are going … building 100, our largest building in the first phase, it's going to go right in the middle of where currently Duck Pond field is. And then building 200 is going to be over on Stadium Lot, at the side that's closest to the stadium. So, we'll actually be splitting up that site into two construction sites, and it's going to be on the site closest to the stadium.
Dave Blanks: Gotcha. So, phase two — what does that consist of?
Matt Dull: So, phase two consists of what we're calling building 300 —
Dave Blanks: Makes sense.
Matt Dull: — a name for me to determine. Why not? So, building 300 will be that next phase. It's around 505 beds or so in that building, and it will be on the other half of Stadium Lot. And so, it's going to be on the half of Stadium Lot closest Trivette Hall, Newland Hall, Wey Hall. So, it'll be kind of a V-shaped building on that half of Stadium Lot. And that will be finished by the fall of 2021. So, we'll have students moving in the fall of 21. So the spring of 2020, for about seven or eight months, it's going to be a lot going on on that site. You'll have building 100 and 200 bidding finished. At the same time we'll be starting with building 300. But, again, if you think about it, in about two and a half years, you'll have just shy of 1,500 new beds on that part of campus in a two-and-a-half-year period. We're trying to minimize the amount of headache for students and faculty and staff that navigate west campus every day by shrinking that construction period as quick as possible. And there's a lot of cost savings. The construction inflation is so much faster than just for consumer goods like milk or eggs or gas.
Dave Blanks: Quicker the better then.
Matt Dull: Yes, the quicker you build the buildings the better. So, we're trying to compress these as quick as possible. Means a lot of coordination and a lot of hands on, making sure everything meets a quick timeline, a quick schedule. That's also another big advantage of moving to a P3 developer. A developer that does this every day. They do housing, they understand it, they're on-site every day. There's a lot of delivery risk on them to deliver these buildings on time, on schedule and on budget.
Dave Blanks: All right. So, phase two will be completed …?
Matt Dull: Fall of 2021.
Dave Blanks: All right. Excellent. And then begins …
Matt Dull: Phase three. Which is building 400 if you follow the pattern.
Dave Blanks: I should have guessed that. All right. So, what's building 400?
Matt Dull: So, building 400 will be, if you're familiar with campus and you think of Justice Hall, Justice is this kind of horseshoe shaped building. Justice was finished in 1955 and we really haven't done any comprehensive renovation of that building. So we'll be taking Justice down, Justice Hall down, and basically making a slightly larger version of Justice Hall, but flipping the horseshoe. So, the horseshoe right now has the big opening towards Rivers Street —
Dave Blanks: Right, faces the road. Yeah.
Matt Dull: Right. And so we'll be flipping the opening, still doing that kind of U-shape horseshoe shape, but the opening will actually face back to where Gardner and Coltrane Hall is now, or Justice Parking lot is now, and that will be actually much closer to Rivers Street. So, there'll be a street front of both Rivers Street and Stadium Drive now of Justice Hall, or of building 400. We're still in the planning phase for that in terms of what's going to be in the building, but there may be some opportunities for some more street front spaces in there, retail-type spaces, or we're still developing all of that. But, because it is street front, that might be a great space for some nicer meeting rooms or more public space for all of campus to use, not just students in these buildings. So, we are still in development phase for building 400, but it's going to be just shy of 700 beds in that building. Larger building, but will be big enough that we're going to break that up into kind of three wings or three communities on each floor. And again, we're really trying to have between 36 and 40 students in each community. So, a community has an RA, that Resident Advisor, undergraduate student that kind of grounds that community in each one of those wings, and each of our buildings will be around that 36 to 40 residents in each wing or each community of the building.
Dave Blanks: OK. Gotcha. So, when does that complete? And that completes phase three in the last phase of the P3 project?
Matt Dull: Yup. So, phase three will be —
Dave Blanks: Oh, P3 ’cause three phases, or P3 ’cause public-private partnership, but also three phases.
Matt Dull: Yeah. So, phase three will be finished with building 400 when it finishes in the fall of 2022.
Dave Blanks: OK.
Matt Dull: So, all three phases, starting in spring of 2019 with phase one ending with occupancy of building 400 in fall of 2022.
Dave Blanks: OK. That is quick.
Matt Dull: So, very fast.
Dave Blanks: So, a lot of phase two, I guess, is taking up Stadium parking lot. How much parking are we losing? How are we compensating for lost parking?
Matt Dull: That's a great question, Dave. So, the parking for Stadium Lot for the spring semester, so spring 2019, we will start reducing some of the parking spaces that are available in Stadium Lot. Not the whole lot; we'll be removing just shy of 200 or so spaces in that lot. We traditionally sell about 200 to 300 spaces for spring only. So we have a lot of students that graduate in the fall, do internships in the spring, student teach, and those students, usually they will turn in their permits and get a refund, or they had fall semester only permits. We're not actually going to sell, we have not been selling spring only permits. So, e’re not actually going to sell, we have not been selling spring-only permits in Stadium Lot like we normally do, and that's to be able to, again, to continue to honor the students and graduate students and faculty and staff that use Stadium Lot for the spring semester, and not have a crunch in the number of parking spaces that are over there. We're also building, that's a part of the project, a 475-space parking deck. And that parking deck, if you've been over on west campus recently, we've already started some of the work on the parking deck. So, we've done site work, and that's preparing the site to be able to start putting foundations in for the parking deck. That's putting in a large retaining wall. That's kind of retaining the soil that's going to be behind the parking deck, and then we'll start building in the next few weeks, we'll actually start putting in the foundation work for that parking deck. It's going to be prefab, so it’s going to be all of the panels in the parking deck are going to be poured concrete off-site, and then we will bring in trucks, probably 10 to 11 a day, bringing in large sections of the parking deck and creating those pieces in to build the parking deck. It's almost like a big Lego or Erector Set that we’ll be doing on that site for probably six to eight weeks in the spring semester. The parking deck is scheduled to be open fall of 2019, so it has a very short construction period, mainly because it's built off-site, craned in and put together.
Dave Blanks: So, are we actually going to end up having more parking?
Matt Dull: So, in the end of the project, we'll actually going to put up about 250 more spaces on west campus.
Dave Blanks: Great.
Matt Dull: So, part of the design process, and part of each of these developers bidding on the project, was we could not have a reduction in the number of parking spaces throughout the construction of the project, and we couldn't have a reduction in the number of beds. So, wven though we're taking down residence halls as we go along, we want to at least have the same number of beds every single term so that we're not reducing the number of beds for students available on campus.
Dave Blanks: Right. So, with all the changes to west side and the fact that the stadium’s right there ... they hold these football games there, right?
Matt Dull: Oh, really?
Dave Blanks: Yeah. Sometimes some people go to them. Yes. Obviously, game day is going to change, right? So, what does this mean for Mountaineer fans on game day? What are the changes to the Stadium Lot mean?
Matt Dull: There some changes coming forward. One of those changes, again, is moving away from the large surface parking Stadium Lot, like all of us have been used to. I'm an Appalachian graduate. I go to football games, like many of our faculty, staff and alumni and have spent years tailgating in Stadium Lot, and that may look a little bit differently as we move forward in the project. And one of those ways that will change even for this fall is we will have a parking deck, and we'll have a parking deck with spaces in there for Yosef Club members on game day.
Matt Dull: The top level of the parking deck will actually be level with the parking that's behind Eggers and Bowie right now. And so it will make a really nice, large open air, large surface parking back behind Eggers and Bowie and the top part of the parking deck will all be that same level, which will be really nice. It will be kind of like that parking lot extends all the way to that top shelf of parking and that parking deck. And there will be some below-level parking deck for folks that may want to actually have coverage during rain or snow, or may want to park their car there and tailgate on other green spaces throughout the project. And we're looking at different options with Athletics on some options for people to be able to park and then potentially tailgate in other spots on west campus to be able to pop their tent up and do tailgating. So, it's pretty exciting. There are some other options we're looking at. Again, part of the plan would be to take down Eggers and Bowie Hall, which would actually make a larger parking space back there as well. So, there'll be a pretty significant amount of, almost an equivalent amount of what's in Stadium now, just about 30 feet higher and up the hill to be the top of the parking deck and what's currently Eggers and Bowie, both the parking lot and the actual buildings. All of that will be parking at the end.
Dave Blanks: Wow. If you're facing the stadium, the parking deck is all the way on the right. Right?
Matt Dull: Right. Yeah. It's on the north side of Stadium Lot.
Dave Blanks: The north side of Stadium Lot, and the road is on the south side of Stadium Lot. So, how are you getting cars out of there? Does that make sense?
Matt Dull: Yeah, absolutely. That's a great question, and we're looking at a couple different options. One of those options is pretty exciting, is looking at making a larger pedestrian path that would go from stadium lot down to right in front of Schaefer Auditorium, and that pedestrian path would be, it would be pedestrian during the day and we'd have bollards or some kind of poles to block cars and traveling that path when students are going between that stadium area and Schaefer Auditorium, but then during game days to be able to take the bollards up or pull the poles down and be able to have another egress out of the stadium area, where fans can leave the parking deck, drive down towards Farthing Auditorium and end at that traffic light that's on Rivers Street and have another exit from the stadium area.
Dave Blanks: Cool.
Matt Dull: That's something I think we've needed for a very long time as an institution when trying to leave on game days, and know the long lines of cars and how long it takes to get out of the stadium, and it also pulls that egress traffic, those people, the fans leaving the stadium away from where a lot of fans are exiting the stadium. So, if you think about now cars are trying to drive down Jack Branch at the same time —Jack Branch is that road that goes from Stadium Lot to Stadium Drive — you've got cars that are lined up, they're trying to leave and you've got fans exiting the stadium and they're crossing. It's not great to have pedestrians crossing with automobile traffic when you're trying to move that many fans out of the stadium or out of any big venue. And so, that new egress down to Schaefer Auditorium and out at that stoplight on Rivers Street, I think will help pull some of that traffic away, and allow fans to safely egress from the stadium and allow two ways for traffic to lead that stadium area.
Dave Blanks: Great. OK.
Matt Dull: So, there'll be a little bit of growing pains in the next two or three seasons as we finalize construction. In the end, it's going to be a really nice game day experience. We're talking about improved parking lots, more traffic islands, more lighting. We're looking at things now, like putting Wi-Fi in the parking deck. If you want to stream other games while you're sitting and tailgating, you can do that at your car, with streaming Wi-Fi from the parking deck. So we're looking at other things to enhance that game day experience. I think it's a really exciting opportunity, long-term, and like all change and all construction, there's usually a few years where we all have to learn how to navigate the new norm and navigate kind of the annoyance of construction, but I think in the end we are at least, in Student Affairs, and I think those who are on the team, we're redeveloping and redesigning and redoing about 14 acres of campus in three years. And so that's every sidewalk, that's every green space, that's most of the utilities, all that underground infrastructure we don't see every day that's 50, 60, 70 years old, we're going to be replacing a lot of that. And hopefully this sets us up for success for the next 40, 50, 60 years. So, this is about being good stewards for the next generation of Mountaineers that come to Appalachian in the next generation alumni, the next generation of faculty and staff, that we're creating an infrastructure that can support a growing institution that students really want to be at and alumni really wanted to come back to.
Dave Blanks: Right. Just a short while and then good changes.
Matt Dull: Yeah, just a short period of headache and then some really exciting and good changes. I think students are really excited. When you talk to students, they're excited about creating a community on west campus, because right now the center of that west campus really is the parking lot. It's a big surface lot, and during the normal school day it's just cars in there. There's not a lot of activity going on, and students are really excited as we've talked to different students in different meetings over the fall semester, they're really excited about having a large green space that's in the middle of building 100, 200 and 300. It's kind of a replacement for that Duck Pond Field, but a large green space, a natural amphitheater that's in there, where we can have concerts and speakers and pep rallies. It's a really cool space when you start looking at the designs. I think students are really excited about it.
Dave Blanks: Well, Matt Dull, thank you so much for your time today. We will do this again. As I said at the beginning, this will be a recurring interview as more changes happen with the project.
Matt Dull: Absolutely. I'm looking forward to it.
Dave Blanks: Excellent. Cool. Well thanks for your time, Matt.
Matt Dull: Yeah, thank you.