The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors approved adding a 5,000-bed, on-campus, student housing complex to the university’s master plan during its meeting Monday afternoon.
The resolution that passed on a voice vote means that the ambitious project, called the Student Life Village, could become a priority in coming years to help ease a Blacksburg housing crunch caused by Virginia Tech’s large enrollment increases the past five years. The resolution does not mean that project is a done deal, however, because future plans and capital spending would have to go through several layers of university review and oversight, which would include additional approvals from the board. (See our background story.)
According to documents filed with the Board of Visitors, the project would be built in three phases at a cost of $935 million.
If built, the Student Life Village would house up to 5,000 students in a new complex that would include entertainment, dining, recreation, outdoors and interfaith worship facilities. The complex will be built on property currently occupied by the Virginia Tech Golf Course and a student-apartment community near Prices Fork Road.
Town officials support the project, which they hope will ease an apartment shortage that strained town services and raised home prices and rents for Blacksburg residents. Residential developers, who have invested millions of dollars in recent years to construct and renovate complexes to house the growing student population in town, worry that the project will leave many of their newly added beds empty.
Those concerns were on the minds of some of the board members who voted against the resolution to add the Student Life Village to the master plan.
Board member Sandy Davis, who said she would vote against the resolution, said she wished that business interests had been included earlier in discussions about the Student Life Village.
Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands assured the board that conversations with government, community and business leaders would begin “immediately,” perhaps soon after Thanksgiving.
Board member Jeff Veatch said he would vote against adding the Student Life Village to the master plan because money for the project could be better spent elsewhere.
“If it goes on the master plan, it’s on the master plan forever, it’s not coming off,” Veatch said during the meeting. “I do have concerns about how far-reaching this is … and things on this plan aren’t things the students are asking for.”
Other members pointed out that the project accomplishes goals that board already approved in the master plan, such as increasing student housing on campus.
“A lot of this is already in the master plan and, in many respects, this is a way to accomplish the master plan for less money,” member Chris Petersen said.
That point was echoed by Rector Tish Long, who noted that “the master plan already exists,” and that the project must clear other planning and budgetary hurdles before the first shovel of dirt is dug.
“There are at least a half a dozen additional steps of approval that this board would have to take before we break ground, before detailed design, before debt raising,” Long said.
The resolution to add the Student Life Village to the master plan was approved by two committees — the Finance and Resource Management Committee and the Buildings and Grounds Committee — on Sunday before it was presented for the full board’s consideration.