Carleton considering privately run student residence

Carleton University officials want to find out if allowing the private sector to build and manage a new student residence will pay off in the long run.

The new building, which would house between 400 and 500 students, will be located on about half a hectare of land north of the current Leeds residence. The plan calls for the project to be ready by the fall of 2016.

The university is looking for expressions of interest from firms that can “demonstrate their experience in financing, designing, developing, constructing, owning and managing (operating) student residence buildings of comparable size and complexity” to the proposed building, tender documents say.

Darryl Boyce, Carleton’s assistant vice-president of facilities management and planning, says he’s heard from a number of developers and other sources that having a private firm build and manage a new residence might be a cost-effective way to expand the university’s student housing.

There are currently about 600 students waiting to get into residence, most of them in upper years. The new building would not be open to first-year students.

Mr. Boyce said Carleton would lease the land to the developer on a long-term contract, but will go ahead with the proposal only if it makes financial sense. University officials will probably decide by the end of September if they want to continue the process by seeking requests for proposals. Otherwise, Carleton will own and manage the new residence itself.

The university first thought about turning to the private sector to manage a residence about 10 years ago, but decided against it at the time, Mr. Boyce said.

A decade later, “there’s more experience with it and there are more developers interested in providing the service,” he said.