ISU Weighing Two Proposals For Student Housing Project | WGLT

ISU Weighing Two Proposals For Student Housing Project

Jul 8, 2019

Illinois State University is still considering the two proposals it received for a new student housing project, though details about the competing plans have not been made public.

The two companies that submitted proposals earlier this year were on campus in late May and early June for presentations to campus leadership, officials said. ISU wants to have the new housing open in time for the fall 2021 semester. Its request for proposals said it wanted to add up to 1,200 new beds; that would be a 20% increase in on-campus housing.

The names of the two companies and details of their proposals have not been made public. 

ISU and the Chief Procurement Officer for Public Institutions of Higher Education have declined to release information about the proposals following several requests from WGLT. The state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exempts from disclosure proposals until an “award or final selection is made.” 

“Because ISU wants to maintain the integrity of an ongoing state procurement process, we are not releasing information such as the names of the companies independently from the rest of the process,” ISU spokesperson Eric Jome said in an email. 

At least seven companies submitted questions to ISU about the project earlier this year, before the proposal deadline, according to records obtained by WGLT. The companies are: 

  • American Campus Communities, a Texas-based company that is the largest owner, manager, and developer of student housing communities in the U.S.
  • Lendlease Communities, an international developer based on Australia. Inquiry came from the company’s director of Student Housing Development, who told ISU officials in an email he planned to visit campus to look for project sites.
  • Clayco, a St. Louis-based real estate, architecture, engineering, design-build and construction firm.
  • Greystar, the largest operator of apartments in the U.S. Based in Charleston, S.C.
  • ConstructConnect, a Chicago-based commercial construction technology platform.
  • CORE Construction Services of Illinois Inc., a contractor based in Morton. It has built higher education projects around the country.
  • Mackey Mitchell Architects, an architectural firm based in St. Louis. 

It’s unclear if any of those companies are the two that submitted bids.

“Since this is still in the active procurement phase, we don’t have any information to share with you at this time,” American Campus Communities spokesperson Kate Lowery said in an email. 

ISU is still evaluating the two proposals, said ISU Director of Purchases Ernest Olson. The process is now in the “best and final offer stage,” according to the state’s Chief Procurement Officer for Public Institutions of Higher Education. After the evaluation process is completed, the evaluation team would make a recommendation on selection of a vendor, or not to select a vendor, for the ISU administration’s consideration, Olson said. 

“Administration will make a final decision, and if they decide to move forward, the University would follow established procedures regarding entering into contracts and developing the project further,” Olson said in an email. 

The new project represents a major shift in housing strategy for ISU, guided in part by a 2018 study from consultant Brailsford & Dunlavey. After years of demolishing aging residence halls, the study found ISU now lacks enough on-campus housing for sophomores, among other needs. 

The project will be a public-private partnership, like the one that built Cardinal Court, which opened in 2012. (American Campus Communities was involved in that project.) After a set amount of time, ISU would own the new housing development. The total cost of the project is not yet known. ISU’s 2018 housing study pegged the cost as between $55 million and $68 million for 600 to 800 beds, though that’s likely to change with any developer’s specific proposal. 

This project could disrupt the off-campus student housing market. Landlords say vacancies will rise as more students stay on campus, cutting into their revenue and increasing the likelihood for dilapidation and even foreclosures. ISU officials say off-campus apartment owners will still be able to serve upperclass students and graduate students.

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