HPU expansion gets final approval

Nov. 21, 2013 @ 09:53 AM

Plans to expand High Point University’s campus have cleared the city’s review process.

The City Council earlier this week unanimously approved three rezonings and two street abandonments that will provide space for a proposed school of pharmacy and health sciences, a planned undergraduate sciences building, new residence halls and parking.

The three areas are along the western edge of the campus: 8.8 acres at N. Centennial Street and Montlieu Avenue, 6.3 acres at E. Farriss Avenue and N. Centennial Street and 4.1 acres along W. College Drive.

The action also cedes control to HPU of a portion of Willoubar Terrace within the 8.8-acre site and W. College Drive between E. Lexington Avenue and E. Farriss Avenue.

The approvals are seen as a key step in helping secure HPU’s proposed pharmacy and health sciences school, which could begin construction in 2015 and eventually accommodate 700 students and employ 100 faculty.

HPU has explored sites outside High Point for the school. The city also has agreed to upgrade streets and make other improvements to facilitate the project.

“The university takes its responsibility very seriously when it comes to being good community partners. There are only three logical areas for growth adjacent to campus. We own all but five parcels within the three areas,” said HPU Vice President and Chief of Staff Chris Dudley. “Without this rezoning and the closing of the streets, these projects will be very, very difficult to complete.”

Several people spoke in favor of HPU’s proposed expansion during public hearings before the council.

Some residents who live near the expansion sites have raised objections, arguing that the growth would bring increased noise, traffic and lights into their neighborhood and could make it harder to access their property if they’re surrounded by the campus.

City leaders also weighed in on the fact that the 8.8-acre site is outside the growth area defined in the University Area Plan, adopted by the council in 2009, which “provides policies to help protect adjacent residential neighborhoods by guiding the orderly growth of the University,” according to the city.

Mayor Bernita Sims said the university needs to be clearer about where it plans to grow.

“Once you started purchasing across Montlieu (Avenue), we needed to have a conversation, so that individuals don’t get blindsided about what comes along,” Sims told HPU representatives during the hearings. “I’m not opposing what you’re doing, just asking for more transparency in what you’re doing. I still believe we have obligations to citizens to make sure they understand what you’re doing.”

Council members also pressed HPU representatives to explain their “signature fence” that surrounds the campus and whether it’s intended to keep the public out.

“As far as keeping people out, that’s without basis. Our campus is open to anyone until 10 p.m.,” said Ron Guerra, HPU director of construction, renovation and development. “The signature fence means where our campus ends. It’s supposed to give a presence that you are in the university area now. It’s not meant to keep anyone out.”

pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531