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NDSU Foundation moves ahead on student housing project, despite holdout homeowner

FARGO — The NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association is a step closer to building more student housing on a block east of campus.

Members of the foundation's board of trustees met Monday, July 18, and decided on a list of five developers who will be asked to submit proposals for the project.

Jeff Volk, who chairs the team of board members selecting a developer, said if everything goes as planned, construction would start as soon as spring 2017 on the block bound by North University Drive, 17th Avenue, 12th Street and 16th Avenue.

However, there's a wrinkle.

Over the years, the foundation has managed to buy all the homes on the block except one. The lone holdout is Darik Demarais, who owns a white, single-story house at 1638 12th St. N.

Volk said the foundation is waiting to hear back from Demarais after offering him about $230,000 for his house a few months ago. City records value the house at $170,400. Calls to a number listed for Demarais rang unanswered Monday.

A driving force behind the project is NDSU's need for more student housing, which has been fueled by rising enrollment.

Depending on zoning and parking requirements, the project would have 80 to 90 units with 200 to 300 beds, and there may also be a retail component, said Greg Wachalsky, vice president of Brailsford & Dunlavey, a national firm hired to oversee the project.

The five developers on the foundation's shortlist are American Campus Communities, Cityscapes Development, Enclave Development, Proffutt Limited Partnership and Roers Construction and Development. The developers eliminated from the running were Paces Lodging, Ryan Companies US Inc. and Servitas.

Volk said the hope is to choose a developer by the end of October or early November.

Foundation President and CEO John Glover said the tenants on the block have been told they can stay in their homes through the end of the year. The foundation should know sometime in the fall whether the tenants can stay through the spring semester, Glover said.

Once the project is finished, the foundation will retain ownership of the land, and the developer, not the university, will own the structure, Volk said.

Ken Enockson, a leader of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, said his group is concerned about NDSU's footprint expanding into the neighborhood.

"That is always in the back of our minds, but we also recognize that there is a limited amount that we can do," he said. "There's going to have to be some give and take by everybody."

Enockson said he hopes the project complements the neighborhood, creates new green space and "is not just four walls thrown up to house people."

Enockson said he and neighborhood leaders met with Glover and NDSU President Dean Bresciani in the spring. Glover said he expects to hold another similar meeting soon.

On Monday, board members spent more than 1½ hours behind closed doors discussing the developers vying for the short list. The move to a closed-door session was met by an objection from The Forum.