Construction is projected to be completed for Fall 2020

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FARMINGTON — San Juan College officials are close to finalizing a nearly $25 million partnership to build a student housing complex on its Farmington campus which could accommodate upwards of 380 students.

The San Juan College Board of Trustees on Aug. 7 authorized college President Toni Pendergrass to finalize a pre-development agreement with Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions to build the first phase of a student housing complex, according to Executive Vice President Edward DesPlas.

"This has the potential to change the lives of our students," DesPlas said.

The proposed site of the complex is set for the college's fire tower on the northwest corner of its Farmington main campus near the soccer fields.

Construction is projected to start in Spring 2019 after the fire tower is demolished, and may be completed for the Fall 2020 semester.

The college board in July selected Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions based in Malvern, Penn., as the developer in a private/public partnership.

The company will fund the $23 million to $25 million construction project, select the architect and hire a contractor to build the housing. Revenue generated by the housing will pay down the debt, DesPlas said.

The college's project still needs approval from the capital improvements committee of the New Mexico Higher Education Department and the New Mexico State Board of Finance for the project, according to DesPlas.

Once a pre-development agreement is executed, architect Stantec Architecture Inc. of Plano, Texas is expected to start developing the construction documents.

Officials are still finalizing the number of beds but DesPlas believes it will be around 375 to 380 beds.

About 60 percent of the units will be four-bedroom, two-bathroom furnished apartments with a living room and full kitchen.

The remaining 40 percent is expected to be two-bedroom, two-bathroom furnished apartments with two beds per room.

The two-bedroom apartments are designed to be an affordable option for students who are more "price sensitive," DesPlas said.

Students in a questionnaire cited affordability, location and security as top priorities for the housing.

A large community space is planned for the main entrance, where the laundry facility would be located along with offices.  

One of the reasons San Juan College is developing student housing is to tackle a decline of enrollment along with population decline in Farmington and around San Juan County.

"We recognize with our shrinking population and our decreases in enrollment that perhaps, it's not possible we are going to expect to see enrollment increases from inside of our area," DesPlas said.

It will also benefit commuter students who travel more than an hour to and from campus and those students who lack reliable transportation, according to Abbigail Delos Reyes, the president of the Associated Students of San Juan College.

She said student housing will benefit students by allowing them to focus on their education and avoid issues with transportation and finances.

It will give the college an opportunity to develop new programs, clubs and events to adjust to students living on campus.

Amanda Robles, the college Director of Student Activities, said more resources will be required to address the needs of residential life, including hosting study groups in student housing.

She was excited about the opportunity to help the college grow and meet the needs for student success. 

The college will have to re-evaluate some of its operations across its main campus, DesPlas said.

Hours of operation for areas including the college computer labs and the Health and Human Performance Center might be adjusted to accommodate students living on campus.

The housing complex could require additional personnel for campus security on evenings and weekends, according to DesPlas.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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