The Port Arthur News
Armed with a half million dollars in one hand and a very probable promise of more to come in the other, Lamar State College -Port Arthur is one step closer to building dormitories on the school’s downtown campus.
Lamar President Sam Monroe appeared before Port Arthur’s Economic Development Corporation Monday to request funding that would offset the cost of building 100 new dorms in downtown Port Arthur.
The college plans to fund the approximate $6.6 million expenditure with $3 million in PAEDC money. The developer would be responsible for the remainder.
At the recommendation of PAEDC Director Floyd Batiste, board members Tuesday said they would be willing to dedicate $500,000 now from the corporation’s downtown fund, and very likely more from 4-A funds once project plans are firmed up.
“I think once there is a full commitment from the developer, we will fill the gap, but we would like to get with the developer and see what the operational expenses are.”
Texas legislators this session approved House Bill 2473, which allows the PAEDC to spend approximately $5 million in sales and use tax revenue on a variety of projects, including downtown housing for Lamar students.
The college hopes to build 100 apartment-style dorms in an area of downtown the PAEDC has targeted for improvements, but will first need the approval of the Texas State University System Board of Regents.
College dorms have been absent from the campus since 1967 when market conditions dictated the school do something different, Monroe said.
“This is our first attempt since the 1960s to try and put dorms on campus,” Monroe said.
The addition of 100 new residents downtown could bring food and retail establishments to the downtown area, Monroe said.
Preliminary plans call for the two-story building to house 100 apartment-style dorms. Most would feature private bedrooms, kitchenettes and a common sitting area in each unit.
“Nobody has build any kind of multi-family residences in that part of Port Arthur for 75 years,” Monroe said.
With the PAEDC’s investment, Monroe said the monthly rental cost for students would be reduced. Lower rates, Monroe said, would make the city’s downtown area, which does not have the best reputation, become more attractive to students.
“It is not the most desirable place to live, but if we provide a nice, clean, safe environment, I think mothers and fathers will let their children come,” he said.
Before pursuing the building program, the college commissioned a study to determine a need for student housing existed. Results of the study indicated there was a demand for 345 beds. To be conservative, Monroe said the college opted to build 100.
More and more, the college is attracting students from outside the region, especially athletes, and those enrolled in the Commercial Music Program, the Upward Mobility Nursing Program, Computer Game Design and Criminal Justice.
Monroe plans to meet with the College Board of Regents at the governing board’s quarterly meeting. The group has been made aware of Lamar’s intent, and of the project’s progress. Ultimately, the regents have to authorize the project, Monroe said.
After meeting with the PAEDC, Monroe said the college is ready to solicit Requests for Proposals, which will lead to the hiring of a developer.
“Lamar is a jewel on Procter Street,” PAEDC board member Dwight Wagner said. “This will incorporate with our plan to revitalize downtown.”