By Janine Bowen
The Board of Local Development Corporation voted unanimously on Thursday to grant Pace University $98 million in tax-exempt bonds to pay for the bulk of renovations at the Pleasantville campus.
Most of the money will go toward construction of student residences and athletic facilities as part of a project approved last summer by the Mount Pleasant Planning Board. A small portion will be used to fund capital projects on the Pleasantville and White Plains campuses.
In addition to the LDC funding, Pace University is borrowing another $12 million for the work. University representatives also hope to take some of the money from the sale of the 35-acre Briarcliff campus, which is currently appraised for $34 million, to pay for the project.
“Based on all of the analysis we have done, we’re confident that we’re going to be able to achieve the construction project, but more importantly, the growth and strength that it will provide for campus enrollment, our retention and graduation rates and our ability to attract students,” said Bill McGrath, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Pace Westchester.
The project, phase one of which is slated for completion by Fall 2016, is expected to create more than 600 jobs. A Hudson Valley-based company, Kirchhoff Consigli Construction Management, has been retained to manage construction. In addition, builders hope to use construction materials and products that have been manufactured within 500 miles of the Pleasantville campus.
“This is another great day for the LDC,” said County Executive Rob Astorino, who was excited to help fund the project in his hometown of Mount Pleasant.
“This is exactly why the LDC was created, to give these kinds of opportunities to nonprofits. A lot of jobs will be created and a lot of smart people who come in and out of your dorms are going to be living here and working here in the future,” he added.
The county approved creation of the LDC last year to help nonprofit organizations make improvements to facilities that will help the public and spur the local economy.
Phase one of the Pace project is already underway. There will be two new four-story residence halls that will include suite-style living, faculty apartments and group study rooms. In addition, the money granted to Pace by the LDC will help build a two-story addition on the Kessel Student Center, relocate the Environmental Center, upgrade the athletic fields and build a 23,000-square-foot field house.
“We are going to be building a much more pedestrian friendly campus, with good internal circulation, that is going to enable us to provide a much more vibrant student life experience,” McGrath said.
McGrath explained that renovation came from a desire to create a unified campus. He said that the Briarcliff campus, which opened in the 1970s to create extra student housing, has since become an inconvenience, with the students who live on the Briarcliff side forced to commute to the Pleasantville campus. In a recent survey conducted by the university, applicants who chose another school over Pace cited lack of campus quality and student life as the main reasons for their decision.