WVU plans to buy more properties in Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University plans to buy nearly 40 properties in Morgantown in a $14.5 million real estate deal that the Board of Governors was set to consider Tuesday afternoon.

The sale was revealed in a report submitted last month to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Government and Finance. WVU officials have declined to discuss the details this week but told media outlets they may have more to say in a few days.

If the board approves the deal, closing is set for Thursday. It would be the latest in a string of big real estate deals for the university.

Just last month, WVU acquired more than 25 acres, including rental properties, three other lots and an unoccupied apartment building, for about $10 million. Last year, WVU bought the Augusta apartment complex property out of bankruptcy for $13.1 million.

The new deal includes 39 parcels near the Summit Hall dormitory in Sunnyside, a run-down neighborhood dominated by student housing. Among the properties to be acquired is a longtime bar, Mutt's.

WVU says the parcels are "uniquely positioned to meet critical current and future needs of WVU" and part of a plan to increase the number of beds for students from 6,000 to 7,600.

WVU says it wants to use the properties to provide students safe, affordable housing near the downtown campus in time for the fall 2014 semester, but the document also mentions laundromats, a grocery store and coffee shops as possible amenities.

According to the plan, WVU would acquire the properties from Paradigm Development Group and RCL Holding. The companies would help develop, finance and manage at least one new student housing facility

Paradigm incorporated just eight months ago, according to records filed with the secretary of state, and lists its corporate officers as Ryan Lynch, James E. Brown and David R. Martinelli. The three are also partners WV Campus Holding LLC, which was incorporated in July.

Martinelli is a longtime professor in WVU's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He said Tuesday he's "not at liberty" to discuss the project yet.

Lynch is also the principal of RCL, which incorporated in April 2011, and three other companies formed since March _ WV Campus Housing LLC, RCL Sunnyside Holdings LLC and RCL Evansdale Holdings LLC. His partner in the RCL Sunnyside and RCI Evansdale ventures is attorney Carl H. Cather III.

All the companies are based in Morgantown.

The agreement with Paradigm and RCL Holding was reached in May, according to WVU's letter.

It says the developers approached WVU with the deal but will only sell if allowed to "participate in the development, financing, construction and management of one or more student housing facilities and of various enterprises."

Paradigm attorney Brian Helmick declined to discuss the project, and Lynch didn't immediately respond to phone or email messages Tuesday.

WVU's letter says Paradigm and RCL have acquired or are now acquiring the affected properties.