More college campuses in the state of Florida have started to form public-private partnerships, to build a maintain residence halls and other facilities on campus.
This is a result of a bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2013. Scott signed the bill to allow public entities such as counties, school boards and universities to enter partnerships with private companies to build facilities “used predominately for a public purpose,”
These public-private partnerships (P3s) allow universities to pass off the responsibility of construction and management of facilities to a private company that specializes in those areas.
“With the right partner, a university gets to transfer risk off to the partner,” Anthony Barbar, chairman of the Board of Governors at Florida Atlantic University and President and CEO of Barbar & Associates, LLC, a real estate consulting firm, said. “[The private partner] is responsible for maintaining the buildings, they handle marketing, it helps the real estate project run more efficiently.”
Other Florida universities have already used P3s to build on-campus housing, parking lots and retail shops. Florida Atlantic University completed Phase I of its Innovation Village Apartments in fall 2011 through a partnership with Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions and Capstone Development. This project resulted in more than 1,200 new beds on campus. Phase II is expected to begin in 2015, and is to include an additional 1,200 beds.
At Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus, construction of Bayview Student Living is underway to add an additional 400 beds. It is expected to open in fall 2016 through a partnership with Servitas property management and construction services.
“They used to have an old 1960s building with maintenance problems and old systems,” Angel Rivera, Director of Development at Servitas said, “Now they’re going to have cutting edge student housing with modern technology that really fits modern students.”
USF plans to use a P3 to construct the new Andros Village, which will replace the current but outdated Andros residence halls on campus. Although the plans are not finalized, the village will be a partnership with Capstone Development Partners and Harrison Street Real Estate Capital. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by fall 2017.
The proposed on-campus Publix supermarket that would be built near the Andros complex would be a P3 as well.
Improving student life on campus seems to be the central focus of the P3 projects at universities. Barbar believes that focusing on students’ on-campus housing experience and being able to provide them a space to adequately prepare academically for the workforce is the main goal of P3s.
“The aim of new housing is less resort-style and more being sensitive to students’ needs and wants. In the past we were oblivious to what students wanted, it was just, ‘this is what we have’,” Barbar said, “Now it factors into decisions of where students choose to attend.”
Rivera also says using P3s for dorm buildings positively impacts student life.
“Students get cutting edge student housing. They get the right areas they need for studying, they get areas for entertainment. And they should have areas for that. This is their home,” Rivera said, “And rent will be more affordable than it would be to live off campus in Miami.”
Public-private partnerships are becoming more commonplace at universities across the state and the country. New ideas to improve student life are what push the innovation of these P3 systems forward.
“If you pick the right partner and have the right practice, it works out great for the student, the university and the private company,” Barbar said, “It’s just the beginning and as a system we’re still trying to figure out what it means for the future.”