CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has signed an agreement with a team of private developers to renovate The College Inn, a former residence hall located just north of the main campus, which has been closed since 2002.

Plans call for turning the seven-story hall into an apartment complex for upper division and graduate students.

OSU officials say this is the first agreement of this kind in Oregon between a university housing facility and a private development team. OSU is working with College Housing Northwest Corvallis and three other companies - Lorig Associates, Mahlum Architects and Walsh Construction. The team of private companies will coordinate the design and renovation of the hall and then manage The College Inn for the next 35 years, at which point the building will revert back to OSU management.

The total cost of the renovation, which will be paid entirely by the private development team, is estimated at $16 million.

"This is an opportunity for us to renovate a building that we could not otherwise afford to do at this time," said Tom Scheuermann, director of OSU's University Housing and Dining Services. "As an auxiliary department, we receive no general or state funds, so all of the dollars needed for OSU housing operations, deferred maintenance, and capital renewal must come from user fees."

Design work for the renovation should be completed in early 2005, with construction scheduled to begin later that spring or in early summer. The College Inn is scheduled to reopen for students some time in 2006.

Most of the hall will feature studio and one-bedroom apartments, according to Eric Hansen, assistant director of University Housing and Dining Services at OSU. There will be a few two- and three-bedroom units as well. When completed, The College Inn should house as many as 235 students.

"The complex is being designed to provide unique common space for social interaction, while providing the privacy of individual apartments on campus," Hansen said.

The College Inn was built in 1966 and in operation through 2002, when it closed because of deterioration to the infrastructure. Built by a private firm, it was sold to the university, but continued to be managed privately until 2001-02, when UHDS took over in preparation of closing for renovation.

The public-private partnership is new to Oregon, though dozens of colleges and universities around the nation use such a model to control costs and streamline capital construction projects, Hansen pointed out.

OSU officials and representatives of the private development team explored several options, including demolishing The College Inn and starting over. The consensus was to renovate, said Gary Meddaugh, president and CEO of College Housing Northwest Corvallis.

"There were several reasons to renovate instead of building new, including the high quality of the initial construction and less impact on the environment," Meddaugh said. "The renovation model also provided the most affordable rent for students, with the opportunity for the largest amount of common space for resident use."