This episode features a continued conversation with Matt Dull, assistant vice chancellor for finance and operations, and Jeremy Doss, senior vice president of RISE: A Real Estate Co. The two handle a few FAQs regarding the residence halls project.
Dave Blanks: Hi, folks. I’m Dave Blanks from University Communications here at App welcoming you to another Campus Construction Update. On this episode, the second half of our conversation with assistant vice chancellor of finance and operations, Matt Dull, and his guest, senior vice president of RISE Real Estate, Jeremy Doss. The two discuss the west campus residence halls project. We’ll go to that now, the second half of the conversation that we recently recorded.
Dave Blanks: We’ve heard a lot about RISE. We’ve gotten a little bit into some of the details about the contract, or how it’s worked out. Matt, could you speak to why RISE? Why did we go with RISE? Why did RISE win the bidding process?
Matt Dull: Yeah.
Dave Blanks: Why RISE? And also, Jeremy, from your perspective, why App State?
Jeremy Doss: Yeah, absolutely. Who goes first?
Dave Blanks: Matt, why don’t you go first? You guys fight it out.
Jeremy Doss: Love fest.
Dave Blanks: That’s right. You take it first, Matt. So, why RISE?
Matt Dull: We went through, really, a three-phase bidding process for the project. Our first phase was our request for qualifications. We asked national firms to send us why is their team qualified to bid on this project. We had quite a few developers provide their qualifications for the project. We shortlisted that group to a group of three developers to put together a conceptual design, the conceptual plans, the financial structure that they are proposing for the projects, how they would manage the projects and operate the projects. And each of those teams pulled together their full proposal, which included a conceptual design of even the locations of buildings, what the buildings might look like, how many beds potentially could be in those buildings.
Matt Dull: When we looked at the different proposals, I think RISE really understood. They had read the master plan for the campus. They really understood what Appalachian was going for when it put its master plan together, and really creating a community on west campus. That was really important to our campus community in that master plan. And RISE really understood that. A lot of the other teams really didn't quite follow through with that in their design.
Matt Dull: I think RISE also did a really great job putting together a project that actually is financially feasible. We had several other developers that, they would be financially feasible if the university was willing to make a lot of adjustments or a lot of sacrifices to what we were really asking for in the project. And RISE did a great job of putting together a project that met our goals for the project, that met the master plan, that met our in-person conversations. We had, actually, a chance to bring each team on-site before they put their proposal together to see the site, see the lay of the land, see how the campus is, see what campus culture is. And the RISE team really incorporated that visit and those conversations during that visit into their proposal.
Matt Dull: So, it was just an exciting proposal. Our team was really excited to receive it. We had a team made up of a student member, a faculty member, several staff members that were a part of that selection process. I could safely say that our team was really excited when we read through RISE’s plans. It just was responsive — responsive to the university needs and responsive to what students were telling us they really wanted in a new west campus community for their residence halls and campus life on that side of campus.
Jeremy Doss: Thanks, Matt, for that down-low too. Just getting a peek from inside is great.
Dave Blanks: Jeremy, why did RISE go to App? Why did you come to App? What drew you to the project?
Jeremy Doss: Why App? Even being from Georgia, south Georgia at that, probably out of all of the schools in North Carolina, obviously, familiar with NC State and UNC, I've been familiar with Appalachian State for many years. Even back when I graduated from high school, there were some folks in my graduating class that came to school up here. It does have a lot of brand recognition. It’s seen as a unique destination and a unique school. Obviously, it hit our radar as that would be awesome to be able to fly that partnership flag at RISE.
Jeremy Doss: As we’re looking at opportunities, and, obviously, on any of these public-private partnership pursuits with a campus, you put an entire team together. You really have to think about what’s the best team here. You’ve got contractors you’ve worked with before, and that’s great. But is that the best formula, or is there a contractor that’s done a lot of work on campus that the campus has a tremendous trust in? Do you try to go put a relationship together to put that formula together?
Jeremy Doss: Nevertheless, you have to put the right team together. Then, you have to understand the university’s vision. And at the same time, you have to understand the dynamics of the institution and the administration. You try to get a sense of how committed they are to this project. Is it just kind of a side project that would be great if they could get it done, but they’re not that committed to it? Or is it mission critical?
Jeremy Doss: We saw that this project had all of the right things that really aligned with us and the passion we try to approach projects with. We can’t chase every deal out there because you won’t have that passion, that extra juice it takes to go in. And when everyone around the country … you’ve got a project this high profile and this large, you're not going to be successful if you’ve just been chasing every one that comes up like it’s a commodity.
Jeremy Doss: On so many different levels, this one interested us. And up and down the team roster of my folks, everyone was excited about it. When we were invited on campus on the site visit day, we wanted to understand more about, “Hey, what's your priorities? What do you rank higher than another thing? I know in the request for proposal, you say this is important, this is important, but how do we rank those and prioritize those?” You’re going to get to where you have to say this or this, you can't be both — like a lot of different design decisions or the siding decisions.
Jeremy Doss: And here, it was key because we had 1,700 dorm-style older beds. The goal was we have to replace those. We would like to go ahead and add 400 new beds, but we have to maintain our capacity throughout that. We can't say we’ve got 1,700 beds fall semester, and next fall you’re going to tell us to go down to 1,300 beds. No, they said we can’t do that. So we have to determine how do we go about replacing 1,700 beds as swiftly and efficiently, and economically as possible, but without reducing any bed counts.
Jeremy Doss: So, we really had to come up with this puzzle as we’re seeing now with building 100 and 200, bringing 912 beds online. Well, another thing there, too, was their parking capacity. We had to have parking capacity. Obviously, fall parking capacity is super critical with the stadium and game day parking. There’s a little bit of flex. They gave us a little bit of swing — 200 spaces in the spring that we thought they could work through. Obviously, it’s tough to do and manage, but we had to have some soft spot to phase this in.
Jeremy Doss: What we’re doing, we’re seeing now 100 is on Duck Pond Field. Two hundred came over and did take some surface parking offline. Before those could get started, we had to get started on the parking deck, so come this fall, fall ’19 we’re back 100 percent, a little over, back to the parking capacity with the deck. And now we have the buildings’— 100 and 200 — footprints under construction. We’ve got our capacity. All of our same residence halls are online. And we start working through this phasing plan.
Jeremy Doss: We work tirelessly behind the scenes with the architects and the engineers on how we can put this puzzle together. A long-winded answer, but why App State, it just had the recipe for everything. And then, even after we met, like I said, at the site visit, it felt like we had a lot of chemistry with the folks here on campus.
Dave Blanks: Jeremy, has there been a project that RISE has worked on that maybe reminds you of what RISE is doing right now at Appalachian State?
Jeremy Doss: There's a couple, and I think that’s another thing that we felt like we were a good fit for App State. But I guess one, in particular, is down at UL Lafayette in Lafayette, Louisiana. They had a similar program. Back in 2009, they had some older residence halls and wanted them to be replaced, in some cases historically renovated, one or two small residence halls. But we came in with a phasing plan very similar to here that was very aggressive. It had to get buildings online by a particular August to take other buildings offline.
Jeremy Doss: I believe we started in 2010 and delivered in the fall of 2012. It was the last phase. We delivered just over 1,800 beds and five new buildings. We demolished four existing high-rise dormitories. We did do a small little historic renovation, but we threaded the needle within this historic residence living community there on North Campus that had these live oaks that were 5 feet from the building. We had to do all of this extensive root trimming and pruning. But that was a very similar project — aggressive. And they were elated when we were able to deliver. And it did have a parking deck, an 800-sspace parking deck, that allowed us to build on some parking spaces.
Jeremy Doss: Since then, we’re actually back on campus and started last summer on a 600-bed upperclassman apartment facility with a clubhouse and pool and everything. So they’re bringing these upperclassmen back to campus, there for UL Lafayette. So, a real success story down with the Ragin’ Cajuns down in Lafayette, but a similar story.
Dave Blanks: So, they’re in our conference?
Matt Dull: They are in our conference.
Dave Blanks: I thought so. We have a lot of construction, a lot of changes going on in west campus. There are a lot of different groups involved. Jeremy, your group, RISE, as well as ... Matt, who’s working on the field house project that we have going on right now right across from that?
Matt Dull: Yeah, right across from the field house project, we have DPR Construction, which is responsible for the demolition of Owens Field House, as well as the construction of that north end zone athletics facility project that’s going on right there. Literally, just right across Jack Branch Road, a large project going on at the same time, and pretty much having a very similar construction schedule to our building 100 and building 200.
Dave Blanks: Right.
Matt Dull: Also, at the exact same time, going down Jack Branch Road, just to the side of Jack Branch Road, is a steam line project. There is another contractor that will be coming in shortly, once they’re selected, to do the steam line project starting this summer, about the same time that all of this is happening in the same few acre site. That steam line will be running just parallel to Jack Branch Road and to building 100 and 200.
Matt Dull: Lots of coordination required. We’ve got both weekly meetings that are happening and smaller meetings with the different contractors and their superintendents for the day-to-day coordination between all these projects. And then we have a larger project team meeting that probably ... Jeremy and I just got out of one that probably had a good 30, 35 people talking about all of the different issues that have popped up over the past two weeks—
Dave Blanks: Jeremy, how are those meetings going? Matt seemed pretty upbeat about them when I heard about them.
Jeremy Doss: Yeah, they’re great meetings to have. There’s a lot going on, but I think all parties are approaching those meetings with a spirit of collaboration. It is a bit unique when you have so many teams mobilized contiguously to each other. But the firms know each other and respect each other, I think, as well. And that helps. And everyone knows the challenge we’re up against. And I think it’s just going to be close coordination.
Jeremy Doss: So I think those on-site teams, those superintendents, are going to have to have daily communication about material deliveries, and traffic flow and everything else. Meanwhile, we have students and faculty and staff continuing to park in the stadium lot that we need to accommodate and keep—
Matt Dull: Students that live there, students that live in Eggers and Bowie and Frank.
Jeremy Doss: And residentials too, exactly.
Matt Dull: Our Athletics colleagues and student-athletes that are working up on the hill … and all of that has to stay open and operable at the same time of having to do three projects all along that Jack Branch Road.
Dave Blanks: Yeah, you still have to be able to get to Trivette.
Matt Dull: Yeah.
Dave Blanks: You’ve got to eat something.
Matt Dull: Yeah, to get to Trivette, to get to campus, to be able to go to class. I think all of our teams have done a really great job trying to even think through making sure the pedestrian path ... how do I get from the athletic facility through the housing project that’s going on, to get down to Trivette, to get down to the tunnels, to get to east campus. There have been a lot of conversation, and real intentional conversation, about how our students, and our faculty and staff navigate the site.
Matt Dull: We’re working in finalizing some of our signage plans as well right now, making sure all of our signs are directing people between these different projects. You’ve got multiple contractors and multiple designers looking at their project, but we need to make sure all of these projects integrate together so we don’t send someone down the wrong way as they’re moving from the athletics construction disruption area over to the housing side — that we don’t send them to a sidewalk that no longer exists.
Dave Blanks: Right.
Matt Dull: So, we’re having to coordinate not only just things like utilities and construction deliveries that are some of the obvious things when you build a project, but some of the things about, just, how do we — as students, and faculty and staff — navigate and experience the site on a day-to-day basis. We’re having to have those conversations too, which is really exciting. And the team has been really helpful in helping us think through how folks will be able to navigate all the projects during the next 18 months or so of construction.
Dave Blanks: So Jeremy, if people want to see some projects you’ve completed in the past, where might be a good spot for you to check out? Maybe online?
Jeremy Doss: Yeah, the first spot to stop by would be our website. We're at risere.com. And you can really see our history of work and other things that we do across the country.
Dave Blanks: Is the Lafayette project on there?
Jeremy Doss: Absolutely.
Dave Blanks: All right, cool. Well, check that out. Also, if you want more information, of course, on the west side construction, you can always go to appstate.edu/appalachians-future. Or an easy way to guide you to that is to go to the appstate.edu site; you scroll down just a little bit and there’s a link called “What’s in App’s future?” So you can check that out. You can see the plans for this project by clicking on “Building the Physical Infrastructure.”
Dave Blanks: So, Jeremy Doss, Mr. Matt Dull, thank you so much, both of you guys, for being here today. I really appreciate your time.
Jeremy Doss: Thanks so much.
Matt Dull: Yeah, thanks, Dave. I appreciate it.