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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

Housing, Retail in Channel Islands Expansion

By AMY STULICK Staff Reporter With a master plan to provide a growing student populace with enough housing and infrastructure, California State University – Channel Islands has launched a number of real estate development projects, including a mixed-use student center and possible completion of a long-stagnant housing project estimated to cost $168 million. The Ventura County school at 1 University Drive in Camarillo currently has infrastructure to accommodate 6,000 to 7,000 students, but the plan is to make room for 15,000 students. “It has recently slowed down, but for a number of years we were the fastest growing CSU campus out of the 23 campuses,” said Thomas Hunt, interim assistant vice president for facilities services at CSUCI. “This means a constant need for space, both academic space and housing space. We’re constantly changing to meet that need.” CSUCI President Erika Beck’s office anticipates growth to level off in the next year or two, Hunt said, but infrastructure development continues. To combat housing shortages and high cost, especially for school staff looking to live where they work, a public-private venture between the school and Beverly Hills developer Kennedy Wilson may see further buildout. Named University Glen, the residential community adjacent to the campus already has a number of homes from the first phase of construction, Hunt said, but full buildout was never attained when the Great Recession happened. Originally, the development was supposed to have 598 units – a mix of market rate apartments, senior apartments, townhomes and single-family residences. “Plans stopped. We had already developed some of the infrastructure, some of the roads were in place, and it has just sat since then. Times have changed and we are now looking to move forward with that project,” Hunt explained. “It has taken a while to get to this point from where we were when they agreed to do this a few years ago.” Kennedy Wilson ended up closing on an $81 million deal in 2016 for phase one of University Glen, which included 386 apartments and for-rent townhomes, as well as 30,000 square feet of retail space so the firm could pay off debt and build new properties. Housing subsidies at University Glen are offered to faculty, encouraging staff to live and work in the same place. “Our real estate prices aren’t cheap,” Hunt added, referring to the Ventura County market. CSUCI maintains control over 158 apartments which it leases to faculty and staff, and 58 of those to students, according to a report from the Business Journal in September 2016. The campus also subleases the Town Center at University Glen, which includes student apartments, restaurants and other businesses. The project’s phase two plans were first discussed before the coronavirus crisis. In a perfect world construction would start this summer, Hunt added, and adhere to a four-year timeline. The university, which owns the land, is still in negotiations with Kennedy Wilson. Hunt told the Business Journal that there are “too many unknowns” when it comes to how the current pandemic will affect project dates. “As far as the current projects on campus, we are still proceeding,” Hunt added. “I can only talk about the impact of the current projects and how they have been affected, but I can’t anticipate how it will affect the economy and future projects.”  Another capital improvement borne from a public-private venture with REC Solar will generate enough electricity to support 68 percent of annual needs, Hunt said. Solar panels are planned for installation by the San Luis Obispo-based company next spring to start generating power by September 2021, once the university addresses concerns about CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act. “It’s kind of a no-brainer for us. We get clean power that costs less and doesn’t escalate in price for 30 years. REC Solar is installing the panels and providing power,” Hunt said of the venture, valued at $7 million. Looking ahead, the university’s two-phase mixed-use project, which will replace Sage and Yuba halls with apartment-style housing, a new health center, retail, a theater and faculty offices, as well as instructional space, will span 250,000 square feet. No price tag has been released yet, nor any finalized details on possible retail partnerships. “We’ve basically finished up our feasibility study to do a project that will incorporate different needs,” said Hunt. “It’s not just an academic building, it’s not just a housing building, it’s not just a retail-type building or health – there are all these different functions going into one large complex.” Once the university puts the project out for bid and chooses a contractor for design and build, construction is due to start in 2022, with the project’s first phase to be completed in 2023. Tentatively, the first phase will be half of the estimated housing and square footage: 275 beds and 120,000 square feet. “They’re constrained by how much they can build and how high they need to go; it can’t be all single story, these will be multiple story buildings,” said Hunt. “We’ll give them design guidelines to maintain the same look and feel the campus currently has.” CSUCI is known for its Spanish mission-style architecture, complete with stucco walls, red-tile roofs and small courtyards.

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