Community, industry and University leaders joined Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen (third from left) in breaking ground for the Hornet Commons student-housing complex on June 4, 2019. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

A festive June 4 groundbreaking – attended by more than 125 students, faculty, staff, elected officials, and other friends of Sacramento State – marked the start of construction on the important Hornet Commons student-housing project.

The $164 million apartment complex for upper-level students will be built on the former site of the Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks, on the southeast side of campus. It’s expected to open for fall 2021.

This is the first public-private partnership, known as a P3, in the California State University (CSU) system.

“This project is so good that the CSU is using it as a roadmap for all future P3s throughout the system,” University President Robert S. Nelsen told the crowd.

Noting that Hornet Commons has capacity to house 1,100 students, bringing the total number of beds in student residence halls to 3,200, Nelsen added, “We are not a ‘commuter campus’ anymore.”

Hornet Commons will have 284 apartments in six four-story buildings surrounding a swimming pool and a common building, which will contain a cafe, fitness center, and community room.

Sac State juniors, seniors, and graduate students can choose from 212 four-bedroom and 60 two-bedroom units (all with four beds per unit), and 12 one-bed studio apartments.

“If you live near the University, you’re more likely to go to class, to go to the library, to hang out on campus, and graduate in four years,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, one of several community leaders and officials in attendance.

Sacramento City Councilman Jeff Harris, who represents Sac State as part of the city's District 3, talked about the “vibrancy” of a campus village.

“This is real progress for Sacramento State and for the city to become even more vibrant, and this also opens up more housing in community,” said Harris, who, like McCarty, is a Sacramento State alum.

A noted groundbreaking attendee was Alexander Gonzalez, Sacramento State’s president for 11 years before retiring in 2015. He had the vision during his tenure as president to initiate turning the ballfields into beds for students.

“It’s his legacy,” Nelsen said, referring to the Hornet Commons project.

University Enterprises Inc. (UEI), Sac State’s authorized commercial-services auxiliary, bought the 11.5-acre ballparks site from the city of Sacramento. The purchase price was $2.3 million, plus the cost of building a replacement ballpark. In addition, UEI leased an adjacent 1.5 acres from Sac State to accommodate 546 parking spaces for Hornet Commons residents.

UEI solicited proposals from developers to build the 360,000-square-foot complex. After a competitive bid process, a campus work group chose EdR as the development partner. Greystar Real Estate Partners, LLC, acquired EdR in September 2018.

Greystar is responsible for building, financing, operating, and managing Hornet Commons. Sacramento State and UEI will support the project but provide no funding.

In addition, Greystar replicated the McAuliffe baseball complex on city-owned land at Army Depot Park, south of the current site. The $9 million construction cost for the ballfields was shared by UEI ($4 million) and Greystar ($5 million).

Greystar also reimbursed UEI $5.7 million, including the $2.3 million UEI paid for the land and other transaction costs. UEI leased the land to Greystar for 85 years, after which control of Hornet Commons reverts to UEI.

CSU trustees approved the final public-private development agreement and schematic design in January 2019.

Steinberg Hart is the project architect, and Sundt Construction, which is building Sac State’s Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex, is the general contractor. Brailsford & Dunlavey provided advisory services.

Hornet Commons will replace the 400-bed Upper Eastside Lofts, which currently houses upper-division students, when UEI's master lease expires in 2022. – Dixie Reid