Coconino Community College is moving forward with plans to build student housing at CCC Page Center, after the college’s District Governing Board voted unanimously last month to approve the project.
The aim of the project is to create affordable student housing for the college, and in turn attract students to the college who have a difficult time commuting. The housing could also potentially be used by seasonal workers who come to Page to work during the high tourist season.
Colleen Smith, president of Coconino Community College, said the idea – which has been in the works for several years but was delayed by the COVID pandemic – stemmed from discussions with students and local employers about how the college could help fulfill community needs in Page.
“I talked to employers, I talked to our folks. The whole idea was to have student and work-force housing in a way that would help the City of Page as well as have a place for college students to be able to live,” Smith said. “And then when we start bringing in full-time college teachers, they would have a place to live.”
Using the housing for both students and seasonal workers might mean starting the fall semester a little later – mid September or early October, for example – to accommodate everyone, she said.
Smith stressed that the project is something that Coconino Community College would never be able to finance on its own, and it’s moving forward as a public-private partnership that includes the Coconino County-funded college; Flagstaff-based Gentera, which has been awarded the development contract; and Kinney Construction, which will do the actual construction.
“The developers are working to get grants and all kinds of things, and then the kind of funding they normally get, and then they will be working to lease the space to our students,” Smith said.
“It's taken a while to work out all the legal issues. People have been working together, and so everything is signed and moving forward. The initial designs are done, but those are basically very initial, so those will continue to go through changes as we determine what our real and specific needs are. They will evolve as the needs evolve.”
Tim Kinney, CEO of Kinney Construction, said the housing will be located on college land located to the west and south of CCC Page Center’s current classroom building.
“The college owns the property and basically leases the property to us, and we provide all the construction for the housing and the infrastructure. Then we manage the property as a residential development,” he said.
“It's a very collaborative program with the college, where we try to make a win-win situation.”
He said it was too early in the process to put a time frame on the project’s completion, but he expected the first building or two to be done in the next couple years.
“We have a conceptual plan. That was for the purpose of just getting to the phase that we’re at, which is just recently a signed ground lease. That really allows us to start moving forward to some real planning. So just for conceptual purposes, we used six buildings. Each one of them is three storeys and approximately 12 units in each building,” Kinney said.
“We’ll build a building, possibly two buildings, at a time and just see how the market reacts to that. It’s very difficult to do a market analysis to predict what’s going to happen because of the clientele being students and being from all over northern Arizona and the reservation. It’s to be basically speculative at first.”
Kinney said the housing project has been “warmly accepted” by the college and the City of Page, an assertion that was seconded by Page Mayor Bill Diak.
“It’s good on quite a few different fronts. It’s good for the college. I think it will help their enrollment because we serve a clientele or a student that travels great distances in some cases,” Diak said.
“We have a large population of Navajos that live not only in Page but in the surrounding area. If you’re travelling from Kayenta or Tuba City on a daily basis, that makes it difficult to come and do two or three classes. You’ve got the better part of half a day or more in classes, and then you add on top of that an hour and a half commute each way, it makes your day pretty long. So, I believe we might attract more people to the college with some housing. That’s the goal at least.”
Diak said he hoped the new housing would help the college to grow. This would help enhance the region by allowing the college to offer a wider range of classes to educate people who might not want to go on to a four-year college, or who might want to transfer to another college down the road.
“Technical programs do well in our region. CCC allows students to get some of that training more locally and fill a need that we have in our general area: automotive mechanics, marine mechanics, that’s something we have a shortage of in our area,” Diak said.