In December the newly formed University of West Florida Business Enterprises Inc. sent out a proposal for bids to develop a hotel and conference center on campus.
The addition would add to the already expansive plans put forth in the Campus Master Plan that, among other things, calls for the construction of a football stadium, multiple parking garages, and a road that would encircle campus.
The proposal calls for a 125- to 150-room hotel and up to a 10,000-square-foot convention center to be developed on 16 acres at the northwest corner of Campus Drive and U.S. 90 that the University will lease to the winning developer for 99 years.
Just how much the project will cost is uncertain at this point since it will be the developer who fronts the bill, but the figure has been estimated at multi-million.
The hotel project and wider campus development are being headed by Matt Altier, who the University hired last July as vice president of administration.
Altier, chief executive officer of UWF Business Enterprises, comes to UWF from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where he served as vice president for administration and finance and was responsible for campus development and forging public-private partnerships like the one proposed for the hotel.
Altier held the same position at California State University, Sacramento where he developed a non-profit organization, University Business Enterprises, similar to the one he recently formed here.
In Sacramento, he negotiated the purchase of a four-star hotel and implemented a residency internship program with Sacramento State’s hospitality management program.
Altier said the UWF hotel would partner with the University’s hospitality management program to give students real-world experience as undergraduates.
“We envision the hotel/conference center to be a busy, university-centered business, attracting visiting families, alumni, associations, faculty and staff groups, the community and even tourists to our area,” Altier said. “The stronger and more successful the hotel becomes, the better the potential for high quality, real-world learning and training for our students, additional resources and additional revenue for UWF.”
Revenue, Altier said, because the development contract would entail a negotiated form of profit sharing.
Altier said he couldn’t say exactly how big of a slice the University will get of the hotel’s earnings because that figure will have to be negotiated once a developer is selected.
Bids for the development are due March 21.
The hotel and conference center are just one of many planned additions in the University’s future, however. First on the to-do list after the hotel and conference center is the construction of a new student union to replace the Commons again a public-private endeavor, one in which the developer would pay for construction, Altier said. The student union is slated to be built next door to the football stadium also included in the plan, where the practice field and tennis courts are now. The reason these public-private partnerships are being sought is because state funding has dried up, Altier said. The last of the Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, funds from the state are going toward the completion of the new College of Business building under construction behind the library.
In all, the Campus Master Plan outlines such sweeping changes that graduates returning to the University a decade from now will likely not recognize their alma mater.
A full copy of the plans can be found online at uwf.edu/campusmasterplan/Documents.cfm.