Upon first inspection, one could be forgiven for mistaking the 50-acre Park West student apartment complex in College Station for a resort located in a more metropolitan area of the state.
The facility's rooftop, 50,000-square-foot amenities deck boasts a swimming pool, hot tub, cabanas, outdoor grills and more. Other features spread across the development include two additional pools, spacious courtyards, three fitness centers, a jogging trail, a sand volleyball court and numerous gaming and study rooms. There are currently two Texas A&M bus stops for shuttling students to and from campus, and a convenience store and coffee shop located on site.
Nearly two years to the day since plans for the $245 million project at 503 George Bush Drive were officially unveiled, Park West had its grand opening Friday just in time for the fall semester.
The 2.2 million-square-foot public-private partnership, initiated by the Texas A&M University System, ranks as the largest student housing development of its kind in the nation.
A&M System Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Phillip Ray said the project, which is being overseen by developer Servitas and was constructed by The Weitz Company, is the latest in a growing list of "legacy projects" to come together under Chancellor John Sharp.
"When you see a project come to fruition from the initial conversations, proposals and evaluations, it's very satisfying to reach the home stretch," Ray said. "...Without question, this is the finest student housing facility in the country, bar none, and I'm just elated and thrilled for our students who are going to benefit from this."
Although the project itself may be outside the ordinary, Servitas Vice President of Construction Aaron Docsa said the team faced the same challenges as any construction project.
"The largest challenge the team faced was just time," Docsa said. "You can't create time, so you have to find ways to utilize every minute of every day to make sure you're constantly meeting your production levels."
Other "typical" challenges included managing the workers -- which could be up to more than 1,000 on site at a time -- as well as materials procurement, deliveries and staging, Docsa said.
He said the project was "very fortunate" to have the team at Weitz serving as general contractors alongside the more than 70 subcontractors who contributed. Although Docsa said the project slightly exceeded the original budget Servitas had planned on, he said it was to be expected with a design-build project such as this.
Weitz Senior Project Manager Frank D'Ascanio said the massive student housing project -- which includes an eight-story building, two five-story buildings and 12 three-story townhomes -- was completed a week ahead of schedule largely thanks to the "amazing team" that was assembled.
"A project like this really needs to be a partnership with the developer, the school and the designers," D'Ascanio said. "There are challenges along the way, but if everyone is working toward a common goal, you'll get there and you'll get it done."
Despite taking 35 rain days over the past two years, during which the area received 80 inches of rain, D'Ascanio said the project team was able to keep on track by doing things a little outside the usual order. He said the team made the decision early to "take weather out of the equation" and pave the entire site -- a move he credited with preventing additional delays that could have pushed the project back beyond its goal completion date.
D'Ascanio said despite the hard work and long hours needed to complete the project in its allotted 24 months, he is going to miss working on Park West. He said at such a large scale and working at a brisk pace, it was rewarding to the see the site continue to advance and evolve month after month as hundreds of workers each did their job to move it forward.
"It's a great feeling, and to be a part of it has been an amazing experience," he said.
Docsa said along with the good work done by Weitz and the sub-contractors who participated in the project, he praised the role of the A&M System by "finding solutions, not causing problems."
Additionally, Docsa said he appreciates the patience, support and understanding of the community and nearby residents of the during this two-year process.
"We just thank [the community] for its understanding while we were stealing all the manpower, causing traffic and bringing semi-truck after semi-truck to the area," Docsa said. "All the residents around us, the retail vendors and suppliers of Bryan-College Station have just been outstanding."
Ray said there are plans to further develop a 10-acre plot of land near the intersection of Penberthy Road and separating the apartments from George Bush Drive to include additional retail and dining options for residents and visitors of the area.
The fully furnished units -- which are available as studio, one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom apartments -- come equipped with full-size beds, in-unit washer and dryer, stainless steel appliances, walk-in closets and Wi-Fi. As of Friday, 1,630 of the 3,406 beds available in the apartment complex have been leased.
The buildings were constructed with an expected lifespan of 50-plus years. Ray said after 32 years, including the development's two years of construction, the ground lease and responsibility for maintaining the project will revert to the A&M System. The project provided Texas A&M University with $18 million in funding up front -- which Ray said has been "reinvested into the mission of Texas A&M" -- and is expected to accumulate more than $600 million for the university over the project's lifetime.
For more information on Park West, visit parkwestlife.com.
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