Public-private partnerships on the rise at Florida universities

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USF plans to use a P3 to construct the new Andros Village, which will replace the current but outdated Andros residence halls on campus.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.”

Salsaween, the best of two worlds

 

Greg McBride had never been to an event quite like the Latin American Student Association’s Salsaween Halloween celebration on Wednesday evening.

McBride, a junior studying international business at USF Sarasota-Manatee, was visiting his friends at USF Tampa, and they decided to go to the event hosted in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom. He said he heard about the event from one of his friends and decided it would be a cool event to go to.

“I’m not in the club and neither are any of my friends,” McBride said. “But all of us are either from Peru or Venezuela so we know Spanish culture.”

Salsa music coming from the event in the ballroom could be heard upon entering the MSC. The lights were dim and there were Halloween decorations all around the room including a giant blow-up arch adorned with skulls in the entryway. There were balloons, tables with decorations and even food like chips and salsa and Cuban sandwiches. One of McBride’s favorite activities at the event was the photo booth.

“I went in with all my friends a bunch of times. There were a lot of props to choose from and I really liked the big crazy glasses and the hats,” McBride said. “I’ll go to any event that has a photo booth and free food.”

At one point during the evening there was a break from salsa music, and a student band came up and played a few popular songs. The dancing didn’t stop though. The crowd of about 150 people loved the music and seemed to enjoy it just as much as the Spanish music.

There was also a costume contest. Students were wearing everything from super hero costumes, to elegant dresses, to traditional salsa dancing outfits. Some students, like McBride and his friends, weren’t wearing costumes at all.

“I don’t really dress up,” he said. “I’m going to another Halloween event on Friday and I’m not wearing a costume for that either.”

Even though Salsaween was first and foremost a Halloween event, students and club members were able to come together and enjoy an evening of music, dancing, food and friends. It is one of the club’s most anticipated events each year.

“I’ve had a lot of fun here so far and I would want to go to another event hosted by the club,” McBride said. “And I loved being able to come with my friends and meet other people who appreciate Spanish culture.”

 

“Ride the Yak” app tour by popular social network Yik Yak reaches USF

An eager crowd buzzed around the distinctively teal Yik Yak tent outside the Marshall Student Center. Students from all around campus flocked to the tent to claim prizes and take pictures with the Yak mascot.

Yik Yak, a popular social app, lets users post anonymous “yaks” that are meant to be visible only to nearby users. It’s popular on college campuses where there are high volumes of social-media-savvy young adults.

The app’s growing popularity has led to a nationwide tour to promote it on college campuses. There are two tours, one on the East Coast and one in the Midwest. The company plans to visit 59 colleges in 34 states, according to the Yik Yak website.

“Our goal is to spread the word about growing the herd,” said Colin Brennan, a 2012 Colorado State University graduate touring with other Yik Yak employees.

The promotional tour rewards active app users with prizes such as Ping-Pong balls, stickers, hats and socks. Brennan said there has been a sharp increase in the amount of posts on the campuses they’ve visited.

“I used to be active [on Yik Yak]. Not so much anymore. This will definitely make me go on again,” senior psychology student Grace McGirr said.

The prizes were in high demand on the USF campus when the Yik Yak tent made camp. Brennan said by noon on the first day they were out of 75 percent of the prizes. By the following afternoon, they only had a few Ping-Pong balls and pens left.

The most active campus on the East Coast tour so far has been the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

“We saw the average user having 20,000 to 60,000 points. We also saw the two highest scores there – 526,000 and 568,000,” Brennan said.

Yik Yak is popular for both entertainment and information.

“If something happens on campus, everybody goes to Yik Yak,” said Sydney Thinnes, a junior chemistry student at USF.

“Yik Yak is basically our main news source,” Thinnes’ friend Anna Zeljazkow said.

In order to appear on campus, Yik Yak partners with student organizations to raise money for a cause. At USF, they partnered with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Yik Yak donated $1 to the organization for every post following a certain theme. They hope to reach out to even more organizations in the future.

“The goal is for Yik Yak to be a tight-knit community, avoid negativity, and be a strong herd while creating informative, relevant, and funny yaks,” Brennan said.