HPU may build pharmacy school outside city

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 07:58 PM

The city has offered to make several upgrades around High Point University in response to the prospect of losing its proposed health sciences and pharmacy schools to another Triad location.
The City Council on Monday unanimously adopted a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with HPU outlining a series of infrastructure, lighting, landscaping and other improvements the city pledges to make near the proposed site of HPU’s pharmacy and health sciences facility — planned as two separate schools in one building — at E. Farriss Avenue and W. College Drive.
City leaders said the offer of assistance was prompted in part by the prospect that HPU might change its plans to build a $100 million, 170,000-square-foot facility on campus.
HPU President Nido Qubein said in an interview Tuesday that the university needs more land and better access to the site of the proposed schools. Potential sites outside High Point, including a portion of Greensboro College, have been explored, he said. While no final decisions have been made, Qubein indicated that the council’s willingness to adopt the MOU would weigh heavily in the city’s favor.
He said HPU plans to invest more than $100 million in the schools.
“Have we been in discussions with (Greensboro College)? Absolutely. Have we been in discussions with other parties in the city of Greensboro? Absolutely. Have we been in discussions with people outside the city of Greensboro? Absolutely,” Qubein said. “This is the single-largest investment that High Point University is making at any one time, and I want to be 100 percent sure we’re doing the right thing for generations to come. Our intent is to be right here in our home city. With the help of City Council and city staff, I am very very optimistic that is exacly what will happen.”

PURPLE FIRE HYDRANTS?

Under the MOU, the city agrees to make several improvements on and around the campus, with the costs to be shared by HPU and the city. These include making lighting and landscaping improvements, installing sidewalks and burying the overhead power lines along E. Farriss Avenue and W. College Drive, as well as widening portions of both streets.
Next month, HPU will ask the city to turn over control of portions of both roadways.    
The city would also install a traffic light at the intersection of W. College Drive and E. Lexington Avenue and relocate the steps to the city’s greenway from the south side of E. Farriss Avenue under the agreement.
City Manager Strib Boynton said it’s not clear at this point how much it might cost the city to fund its share of the improvements.
The MOU also outlines improvements to be performed by the city but paid for by HPU. These include painting all fire hydrants purple along the parts of E. Farriss Avenue and W. College Drive under HPU’s control in the future and providing reflective purple street signs with white lettering.
HPU would also be allowed to encroach on to the city’s rights of way to construct, at its expense, welcome centers at E. Farriss Avenue and N. Centennial Street and at W. College Drive near E. Lexington Avenue.
The university could also construct a small wall and fence along a part of the greenway.

‘THEY WANTED A COMMITMENT’

Boynton said the MOU includes things that HPU officials said were important to them.
“They wanted a commitment, which I think is fair and reasonable,” he said. “My whole point is, we’re supporting the university and its plans to grow and what (Qubein’s) asked for. It’s designed to encourage and give comfort to the university in its plans to grow.”
Councilman Jim Davis said losing the pharmacy and health sciences schools could be devastating for High Point.
“I think it’s important (Qubein) keeps it here in High Point, because if he didn’t and moves it somewhere else, chances are the whole thing could move some day,” said Davis. “I think his requests were legitimate. They’re small things. I had concerns about the cost to the city, but I believe HPU is the catalyst for our future.”
Mayor Bernita Sims said the MOU is a vote of confidence from the city in the university.
“Our reasoning was to continue to help HPU grow. It’s not as if this is going to be a very expensive proposition for us,” said Sims. “I want them to know the city is there to help.”
Qubein said that the school— the plans for which were announced in March — will eventually accommodate 700 graduate students in programs such as physical therapy, physician assistant studies and pharmacy studies.
“A number of interested parties would like to see these schools. These schools are plums and would be major economic contributors to any community,” he said.
The MOU, along with upcoming rezoning requests that would provide for additional parking and expansion space for HPU, addresses his concerns.
“We weren’t trying to play any games. ... We needed significant land and access to this land,” Qubein said. “We were running out of space. We needed space either contiguous to campus, or we had to look at all options that are in the best interests of the university long term.”
He said he wanted to “congratulate loudly and clearly the city manager and his staff and City Council for having the vision and sense of stewardship to work closely with us to ensure that these schools are built right here in our home city. We are committed to be High Point’s university.”