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Napa Valley College ponders on-campus housing

This parcel of land south of Imola Avenue near Napa Valley College may be developed by the college for student and faculty housing. A study commissioned by the two-year school has indicated demand for housing on campus for roughly 300 students and faculty members.

A Napa Valley College plan to build housing on campus could take on a partner – a nonprofit one.

Directors and trustees for the community college recently discussed the financing, build-out and operation of a long-pondered housing complex that could accommodate hundreds of students, faculty members and employees at NVC’s main campus off Highway 221.

After months of discussing whether the college should build the project itself or rely on a developer, college trustees and directors this month pondered a third way: an agreement with a nonprofit group to oversee and finance the effort.

Board members have taken up the ownership question as NVC prepares to lay out details of its campus housing campaign this week. The NVC board is scheduled to review a pre-development agreement with The Martin Group of San Francisco during a special meeting Thursday, according to Bob Parker, the college’s assistant superintendent.

Speaking with the NVC board this month, Parker described the nonprofit route as a safer road compared to direct housing development, which would leave the college responsible for the project’s full cost, or a developer-led project that would leave the college without full design control or revenue access.

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Under such a plan, a nonprofit corporation, specializing in campus residential development, such as the Collegiate Housing Foundation or Provident Resources Group, would own the housing community and issue tax-exempt bonds for construction. A developer would earn a fee for the build-out, but would not hold any ownership stake or a cut in the annual net revenue, Parker said. Management of the finished complex would fall to the college or a third-party contractor.

The choice of bond financing would remove costs to local taxpayers, and NVC would receive all surplus cash flow from the development after paying expenses and debt service, according to Parker. After repayment of the construction bonds, NVC would assume direct control of its campus housing.

NVC has explored the possibility of creating student and employee housing in recent years, as rising Napa County rents have pressured low-income students. In 2017, school officials estimated a third NVC students were compelled to couch-surf or otherwise move frequently because they lacked a permanent place to live.

A 2015 master plan of the main campus identified areas possibly suitable for residential construction, and the college in December 2018 commissioned a market analysis to predict housing demand. The resulting study by The Scion Group of Irvine concluded NVC could fill at least 300 beds at an on-campus development split between traditional dormitories and apartment-style dwellings.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.