GCC rejects dorm proposal

Glendale Community College officials have rejected a proposal from a developer to construct an on-campus dormitory, saying that they were unwilling to commit to the long-term land lease and financial obligations that came with the project.

In August, Glendale resident and Korean businessman Chang Lee connected the college with WAM Development Group, who pitched a one-year, exclusive right-to-negotiate contract to explore the possibility of building a 175-room residential facility.

It would have served to house the college’s growing international student population, which typically hovers at about 500. International students pay non-resident tuition, and the extra cash helps pay for additional classes at the college.

Initially, the developers identified a city-owned parking lot across the street from Glendale Community College as a probable site, but later proposed building the dormitory on the campus’ upper parking lot.

During a special study session in September, several college trustees said they were open to entering into a preliminary, one-year agreement with WAM to at least explore the details of the $30-million project, noting that it would come at no upfront cost to the college.

But as negotiations unfolded, WAM brought to the table a contract that included stipulations the college could not commit to, President/Supt. Dawn Lindsay said.

Among them was a 60- to 65-year land lease agreement and a guarantee that the dormitory would have an occupancy rate of at least 70%, Lindsay said. In the case that occupancy fell below that level, the college would be obligated to pay the developer the difference.

“There was no way,” Lindsay said, emphasizing that all college revenue needs to be invested in students.

In addition, a survey conducted amid the discussions showed that students were more interested in apartments than dorms, Lindsay said. At the advice of legal counsel, the college bowed out of the negotiations in late September, she said.

Lee, who has played an integral role in establishing and fostering relationships between South Korea, the city of Glendale and Glendale Community College, said Monday that he was disappointed the proposal fell flat. When he travels abroad to promote the college as a destination for Korean students, one of the first questions he is asked is where those students will live, Lee said.

There is a need for some sort of residential facility for international students, Lee said, but added that he understands the concerns of the college leadership.

“Sometimes you have to look at whether the positives outweigh the negatives,” Lee said. “I thought in this case there were more positives than negatives.”

He has taken his search for an appropriate site off campus, Lee said, while continuing to work with the college on reaching out to Korean-American and Korean students.

The college will begin next week negotiating a new memorandum of understanding with a Dongjak-Gu, a district in Seoul, South Korea, that could pave the way for additional collaboration, Lee and Lindsay said.

“We haven’t disbanded the relationship,” Lindsay said. “We are still working very hard at increasing the student base and meeting the needs of the international students who come here.”

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