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NEW YORK CITY-Nearly doubling its residential space, the Fashion Institute of Technology acquired a 320,000-sf former flex property at 406 W. 31st St. for $48 million. The college, which is part of the State University of New York system, will spend an additional $64 million to convert the site into 493 student apartments. Adding approximately 1,100 beds by August 2006 “helps ease a serious decades-long shortage of on-campus housing,” according to school officials.

“With 11,000 students, 6,500 of whom are full-time, and only 1,200 beds, FIT has had to place severe restrictions on who can live in our residence halls and how long they may be housed on campus,” says FIT president Dr. Joyce F. Brown. Currently, only students entering an associate degree program who come from beyond a 35-mile radius may apply for student housing. Housing is then available for only the first year. Once completed, approximately 200 beds will be rented each semester by SUNY campuses.

The 15-story 100-year-old building will be gutted and transformed into two-, three-, and four-bed suites and spots for resident counselors. Anticipated amenities include cyber and study lounges, a laundry facility, a fitness room and administrative offices. There will be 24-hour security coverage and a state-of-the-art fire safety system. The architect is Wank Adams Slavin Associates LLP. Zoned for manufacturing as an M1-5 site, the building required a use variance. Community Board 4 unanimously endorsed the variance request and the Board of Standards and Appeals approved it.

Financing for the project was arranged on behalf of FIT Student Housing Corp. by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. Lehman Brothers provided investment banking services through the sale of $144.5 million in insured revenue bonds. Morrison & Foerster and Wachtel & Masyr provided legal services for the college, while developer George Kaufman, an FIT trustee, acted as an unpaid advisor.

The new building, just five blocks from the school’s Chelsea campus, will be owned by the FITSHC, which is a not-for-profit auxiliary corp. established to own and manage residence halls for the school. It currently owns and operates the on-campus Alumni Hall and Nagler Hall.

This is among the first new construction projects in the Hudson Yards area, the site of a major redevelopment program proposed by the city which is expected to transform the area over the next 40 or so years.

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