Can NKU development keep more students on campus while boosting enrollment?

Posted at 8:23 AM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-22 00:41:24-04

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — As Northern Kentucky University students finish classes at the end of the day or on the weekends, Adam Caswell has watched them filter off campus to live and play.

Caswell has been looking for a way to change that as part of a grand entrance to the Highland Heights campus for 20 years. But it's been a challenge.

"It's a difficult site," said Caswell, assistant vice president of government, corporate and foundation engagement at NKU. "It's got difficult topography. The financing has never come into place."

But now, a $110 million mixed use development is taking shape.

"The broader university community, as well as those that live in Highland Heights, were looking for a reason to stay on campus in the evenings and on weekends," said Adam Branscomb, vice president of new development with Fairmount Properties, the Cleveland-based company that is developing the site.

Completion of phase one, a medical office building, is expected for 2020. Phase two will include shops, restaurants and office space; later, plans call for about 75 apartments, public gathering spaces, and a 110-room hotel, intended to help keep those students on campus after classes end for the day and the week.

"There will be market rate apartments available within the complex that students or community members will all have access to." Caswell said. "It's just another step in the process to build true collegiate experiences at NKU."

Several parties came together to make the new development a reality, including NKU, the city of Highland Heights, Campbell County and private entities. NKU is the 13th university-based project Fairmount has done, but it's the first one in Kentucky.

"Our company has a specialized division that focuses on public private partnerships done in conjunction with universities," Branscomb said.

Caswell and Branscomb said it was important to get feedback from students, faculty and the community about what they would like to see in the area.

"These are the types of amenities that we can strategically invest in, that gets students to our doors and help our region get the talent that it needs to continue to thrive," Caswell said.

Branscomb agreed, saying the project would hlep the university realize some of its goals and objectives with growing enrollment.

"We really see this project as helping to be a tool for recruitment and retention." he said.