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Payson University Roadwork Underway

Backers insist construction will start in December, despite uncertainty over partner

ADOT crews are creating a highway entry to the property of a proposed Payson university campus. Credit: Alexis Bachman/Payson Roundup

By Alexis Bachman for Payson Roundup

Work is underway to widen State Route 260 for several turn lanes leading into the site for a proposed university.

While no university partner has been named, those working on the project say signing a partner is imminent. They say construction on an academic building and two dorms should start in December for the anticipated arrival of students after May of 2018.

Gary Cordell, Rim Country Educational Foundation president, said crews are right now working on access to the campus site, which sits on 253 acres of land acquired jointly by the Rim Country Educational Alliance and Foundation from the U.S. Forest Service last year.

In an update on the campus in May, Cordell said while local project planners initially dreamed the academic facility would open with 1,000 students and grow to 6,000. However, backers have scaled back those numbers.

They now plan to open with 300-350 students and grow the campus an additional 200 to 300 students every year until reaching an enrollment of 2,500 students.

In Phase 1 of the Payson project, the Alliance and Foundation will widen the highway and spend $70M to construct three buildings comprising the facility — an academic building to hold classes and two dorms, Cordell said in May.

Although Phase 1 of the academic buildings will be built to handle up to 1,000 students, the high construction and infrastructure cost in an unproven housing market have limited initial student housing construction to 300 units.

In future years, they will add other academic buildings and dorms in the same area.

On the east side beyond a large ridge, the Foundation hopes to build a conference center/resort and residential housing. Cordell said they are envisioning condominiums accessed from a future second entrance off Rim Club Parkway.

The west side of the property has room for future commercial development.

On Tuesday, Cordell met with that contractor in the Valley in what he called a “kick off meeting.”

Construction work on the buildings is expected to start in December and run through May 2018.

Asked if the Foundation would go forward with construction even if it has not signed a university partner, Cordell said they would announce a partner soon. He refused to discuss the negotiations further.

Work on Highway 260 should be done by October.

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