French Village

Sun-Commercial photo by Gayle R. Robbins | Wolfe Construction, 2724 Washington Ave., was awarded the first four contracts for Vincennes University's French Village student housing project. The university's board of trustees approved the contracts, totaling almost $7 million, on Monday.

Wolfe Construction, 2724 Washington Ave., on Monday morning was awarded four contracts for the first buildings of French Village, Vincennes University's new French-Creole inspired student housing project planned for the area just south of the campus across the railroad tracks.

Wolfe was the only bidder on the project the first time around, submitting a price that was judged to be too high.

Last month university officials agreed at least another bidder was needed for comparison — and to possibly drive down the cost.

Bids were opened last week, and the VU Finance/Revenue Committee met on Oct. 4, agreeing to recommend Wolfe's bids on the four apartment buildings to be constructed on Hart Street between First and Second streets.

Committee chairman Mike Sievers said eventually around $600,000 was shaved off of what Wolfe had originally submitted. He said it was not so much a question of cutting back on the project as it was “clarifying” and “simplifying” the scope of the work.

The total for the four contracts came to just under $7 million.

A fifth contract, for site-development work, went to Kerns Excavating of Bicknell for just over $1 million.

The first building will include eight apartments, the second and third buildings nine apartments each, and the fourth four apartments.

In total, they will provide some 90 beds for future VU students.

Sievers expressed the committee members' belief that the project, when completed, would be a “phenomenal” addition, not just to campus and the university but the community as a whole.

That sentiment was echoed by VU president Chuck Johnson, who earlier in the meeting had been voted a 1-year extension to his contract.

But board member J.R. Gaylor, president and CEO of Associated Builders & Contractors Inc., a trade association representing nonunion construction companies, one of four board members “attending” the meeting via telephone, questioned how the university had sought bids on the project.

Andrew Young, the university's architect, said VU had followed state requirements by advertising in The Sun-Commercial, but also had emailed information about the project to contractors with whom the university had done business in the past and had posted the information on the appropriate state websites.

He said efforts were made to cast a wide net to solicit as much interest as possible.

Sievers said moving forward the emphasis would be on staying in the block between First and Second streets.

Eventually, the plan is to move across First Street with additional apartment buildings, all maintaining the French-Creole inspired design theme.

Eventually, the project is to provide beds for more than 200 students, most of whom will be studying for four-year degrees while living in the complex.

Nothing was said at the meeting of any plans for what's come to be known as the “tile house” at 617 N. First St. The unversity agreed to spare the house, given its prominence and that it was listed as “contributing” to the city's Historic District.

Originally, there had been a plan for the house to be restored and remodeled to make it the Presidents House.

But the plan was dropped, and VU has not indicated to what use the house may now be put.

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