French Village

Members of Vincennes University’s Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee on Monday afternoon awarded another round of contracts for an expansion to the French Village at Second and Hart streets.

Officials at Vincennes University are moving forward with the second phase of a major French Creole-inspired housing project.

Members of the VU Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee met by phone Monday afternoon and awarded the contracts for Phase II of the French Village, set to be located just to the west of the apartments currently under construction south of campus at Second and Hart streets.

This second phase, explained campus architect Andrew Young, will be constructed on the square block off Hart Street between First Street and the Wabash River. It, too, will include four individual buildings.

“It will be an extension of what we’ve already done in Phase I,” Young told the group. “It will be another four buildings, the same style of apartments.”

The university will, however, be paying a little more for this second phase.

The finance committee voted to recommend that the contract for all four buildings — each was bid separately — be awarded yet again to local contractor Wolfe Construction, 2724 Washington Ave.

Wolfe last fall was awarded a contract for just under $7 million for Phase I.

This second phase will cost just over $7.3 million, and Wolfe was the only contractor to bid on any of the four buildings, Young told the committee.

And while this second contract is for more money, Young said it’s not that much more, not when put into perspective.

When broken down into cost per square foot, the first phase was about $240 per square foot. This second phase, he said, will be $258 per square foot.

And that’s still significantly lower than the next-lowest bidder on Phase I nearly a year ago, which would have been $299 per square foot.

“And keep in mind, we’re a year later down the road,” Young told the committee. “And we’re in unsettled times.

“So this $258 (per square foot) seems to be a very good number,” he said.

Young, too, discouraged the committee from putting Phase II out for bid a second time in an effort to gain more contractors.

It’s unlikely, he said, that they’ll see a better price.

“Even though this price is a little higher than last time, we won’t get this price again, not for this type of housing,” he said.

Committee members, too, agreed that staying with Wolfe Construction would likely prove beneficial. Young said other than some delays in completion — delays which could be contributed to the university being slow to award the contracts last fall — he’s been happy with the work done so far.

Two buildings are nearly finished, the other two are set to be done by the end of next month.

Committee chairman Mike Sievers, too, said Wolfe would likely be “impossible to compete with” given that it did the first phase of the project.

“He’s got an advantage, no question,” Sievers said.

The committee also awarded the bid for site work and concrete for $1.1 million to Kerns Excavating, Bicknell, the same contractor that did the site work for Phase I.

“So we’ll have the same contractors to deal with, and that’s good,” Young said. “We’ve learned to work together.”

Young also offered an update on the plan for a historic home at 617 N. First St.

The university, as part of the housing project, saved the home as a compromise both to members of the city’s Historic Review Board and local historic preservationists upset at losing four square blocks of homes and businesses in the Historic District to make way for the French Village.

Originally, there was a plan for the house to be restored and remodeled to make it the Presidents House. But that plan was dropped.

Young said the new plan is to renovate the home and use it as the French Village’s “main office” once it’s up and running.

And as for Phase I, the university hopes to begin renting those in the fall, Young said.

Work on the second phase will get going soon, they hope, but issuing a notice to proceed to Kerns and Wolfe will require approval from the full board of trustees.

It’s likely members will call a special meeting sometime within the week, Young said.

“We’d like to get this done and under way,” he said.

When finished, the French Village will provide nearly 200 beds for students, most of whom will be studying for four-year degrees, university officials have said.

The units feature the latest in campus-style living. Students will have their own bedrooms and bathrooms but have shared living spaces, kitchens and laundry facilities.

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