Alaska Pacific University has entered into an agreement to develop 65 acres of endowment lands over the next several years.
The first parcels of land under development will be on the south side of the campus, along University Lake Drive. Ideally, APU President Don Bantz says the development will bring in organizations that connect with the University’s curriculum, but it’s still open for discussion.
“We’re obviously looking for highest and best use in terms of commercial development, but we’re amenable to things like restaurants or mixed use commercial, so that’s all just part of the plan,” Bantz said. “I wanna stress first, though, that we’re gonna develop this for a campus feel; in other words, everything’s gonna be aesthetically consistent and it will look like a campus. So it won’t be just a mish-mash of buildings here and there.”
Because APU doesn’t receive state funding, Bantz says agreements like this help to develop the university’s financial future and long-term sustainability.
“It’s really a way to make a private quality education available to all Alaskans,” he said. “So, this is how we discount our tuition for the income that’s will be generated from these properties.”
At the beginning of the 2014 school year, APU cut tuition costs by about a third, to around $19,500 per year. Bantz says aside from allowing for lower tuition rates, the development will help the university sustain a robust scholarship program – which he says the majority of the school’s 600 students benefit from.
APU’s plan has been developed independently of the controversial Northern Access Project, which would connect Elmore Road and Bragaw Street, by cutting through a swath of the U-Med district’s woods and wetlands between APU and the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The Northern Access Project has been widely criticized by surrounding communities. Carolyn Ramsey is an area resident and APU alum. She says, much like the road extension, this development would be detrimental to the university’s students.
“Many of the students use the APU campus as their giant petri dish; where they go to get their data, to get their information; to count the flora and fauna, to do what they need to do as an environmental teaching school,” she said.
Though Ramsey understands that it’s APU’s land to make use of, she’s still disappointed in the university’s decision.
“APU did not come to the council or come to the community as at large and say, ‘hey, you know, we have a lot of land here, we need to do something with it. We need to generate some money. Is there any way that you can help us?'” Ramsey said.
Bantz says the university recognizes the community’s concern over how both of these projects will affect the surrounding green space and trail system.
“We’re committed to the trail system and if development impacts the trail system, which the road may do a little, we’re committed to replace the trail,” Bantz said.
If the Northern Access Project goes through, Bantz says it could affect development plans on the west side of the APU campus.