Royal Roads seeks partner to build student 'village' in Colwood

September 27, 2011
Times Colonist
Carla Wilson

Royal Roads University is hunting for a partner to design, build, finance and operate a mixed-use village with new student residences, retail space and a clock tower near Sooke Road in Colwood.

Under the Upland Village concept, construction of a first phase could begin in April and be ready by August 2013, a university document states. Student housing would be built first, Paul Corns, Royal Roads associate vice-president of community relations, said Monday.

Nov. 10 is the closing date for proposals.

Revenue-generating ideas to help pay for student housing will be considered. Developers are expected to finance the project and assume financial risk.

Buildings would go up over a number of years, based on demand.

The village development could result in up to 56,000 square metres of buildings, with 1,323 residential units and 240 parking spaces, the plan shows.

Developers are being asked to evaluate the proposal's feasibility and make suggestions.

The village concept is on undeveloped land leased from the federal government, which must give approval for construction, Corns said. Land available for development is restricted because Hatley Park, where Royal Roads is located, is a national heritage site.

"The final business opportunity for the project may be significantly different than the concept," the university document states.

The proposal is being rolled out as the scale of the planned Robert Bateman Centre for arts and environmental education is being reviewed. Corns expects that new information will be released before year's end. Because scale affects cost, no construction value is available.

An independent public foundation will be established to raise money for the Bateman Centre, Corns said. The amount of money raised to date is not being released, he said.

Royal Roads was created in 1995. Most of its students are off-campus and attend classes online. Many of them come to the campus for short periods as part of their course work.

The university hopes to increase enrolment by 50 per cent, to 4,000, by 2017-

2018. It is projecting 1,400 on-campus students by then, creating a need for more housing. "Student housing really is the anchor to the development," said Corns.

Royal Roads currently has only 176 out-of-date rooms, as well as some bungalows, he said.

There are 250 undergraduates in 12-month, oncampus programs, but they can't use existing housing because it is reserved for graduate students coming to the campus for short programs.

Phase 1 of the Upland Village would have 406 dorm rooms in four buildings, a village square near the university's main entrance and a dining hall.

The developer would lease the land. Terms of 30 to 40 years will be considered, the university document states.