Partnering to Park

by Katie Sloan

Valdosta, Ga. — Ambling’s on-campus work is more than housing.  

Valdosta, Ga. As universities call on outside parties to develop student housing on campus, developers also find themselves taking on other projects as part of RFPs. Chief among these are parking, dining halls and classroom space. Companies like Ambling University Development Group (AUDG) are seeking innovations when it comes to working parking into financing and project delivery of public-private partnerships.

In some states, like Georgia, public universities cannot use state funds to build revenue-generating buildings — like parking and student housing — on college campuses. As a result, RFPs for public-private partnerships usually contain more than one property type. That calls for a flexible developer.

“The trends we’re seeing include administrators asking for a lot more ingredients in the overall pot of soup,” says AUDG President Greg Blais. “The idea of master plans have been involved more and more in our on-campus student housing solutions.”

Parking is one such ingredient universities continue to struggle with, and subsequently seek to outsource. Ohio State University is looking to sell its parking program outright, and they’re not alone in the dilemma.

“If we had parking, everybody would live on campus,” says Larry Hicks, director of housing and residential education at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Hicks says on-campus living is tantamount to success at Carolina, but that a lack of parking often is a deal-breaker for students. “Some people move off campus just because they want to have a place to park.”

“Parking has historically been a problem on college campuses,” adds Blais. “We have been seeing a trend where we’re getting much more creative on how we can accomplish the successful financing of a parking facility that eases the tension on the overall parking program of the institution. We weave those into conjoining the financing with housing of some other auxiliary enterprise facility that can help pay for the parking and ease some of the tensions that exist.”

Blais points to AUDG’s work on the campus of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, specifically Olivier Tower, a parking structure that has been implemented in a multi phase delivery. The parking is a component of the 2,000-bed first phase of new and renovated housing on the ULL campus. There are 852 parking spaces. Two facilities at ULL are complete, and two are currently under construction.

At North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, Ga., AUDG provided a 1,080-space parking deck, along with new housing, and a mixed-use facility that included a bookstore, infirmary and student affairs offices.

“In addition to parking, athletics are also becoming more important,” Blais says. “Schools increasingly have fewer dollars to do land acquisitions to expand the boundaries of their campus because certain users like athletics require so much acreage. Master plans offer creativity on how best to achieve that. Athletic fields and surface parking take up enormous amounts of space.”

Increasingly, AUDG’s portfolio additions are requiring more than designing and building residences. “Student recreation centers, athletic facility enhancements, all of these items are focused and studied within the overall campus master planning that the developer, at least AUDG, is becoming increasingly more a part of,” Blais says.

— Lynn Peisner

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