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VINEYARD, Utah County — After years of growth, Utah Valley University is expanding its borders northwest to the former site of Geneva Steel.
On Wednesday, school officials announced the purchase of an additional 125 acres of land within the @Geneva mixed-use development, bringing its total at the Vineyard site to 225 acres and effectively doubling UVU's physical footprint in Utah County.
"I think inevitably you’re going to have academic buildings and classrooms and public-private partnership structures out there that will really be an engine of student activity and learning, in addition to the other things it will allow us to do for university expansion," UVU President Matthew Holland said.
UVU previously purchased a 100-acre @Geneva parcel in September of 2011, which currently houses athletic fields used by the university's intramural sports clubs.
With this week's 125-acre purchase, Holland said the university is now able to consider a range of opportunities that would have been out of reach had UVU remained "landlocked" on its 200-acre Orem campus.
"Without knowing exactly how it’s going to play out, what it does is open the doors wide open to a whole set of things that wouldn’t have been possible," he said.
Gerald Anderson, president of Anderson Development, said the @Geneva development will eventually generate 20,000 jobs and contain housing for 25,000 people. He said there are currently nine projects under construction, including apartments, condominiums, roadways and a 13-screen Megaplex theater.
"We think it's going to be a huge economic driver for northern Utah County," he said.
Anderson said Utah Valley University plays a central role in the evolution of the new community, with developers looking to provide housing, restaurants and entertainment to a diverse student population.
We envisioned, after their first acquisition, that UVU would be the anchor for our site and by having such a large purchase and commitment of use it basically makes Geneva kind of a college town.
–Gerald Anderson, president of Anderson Development
Of the original 1,700 acres at the Geneva Steel Mill site, Anderson said all but roughly 600 acres has been purchased by developers.
"As developers, we create a general plan and that plan is made more specific by the tenants we bring to the site," Anderson said. "We envisioned, after their first acquisition, that UVU would be the anchor for our site and by having such a large purchase and commitment of use it basically makes Geneva kind of a college town."
Anderson said many of the residential projects are expected to be completed and open for tenants this fall, with additional openings occurring over the next several years.
He said university officials are still determining the best use of the school's property, but he anticipates those plans moving forward soon.
"Given the growth patterns of what we’ve seen from UVU, we suspect a substantial amount of development to occur there quite quickly."
The @Geneva property is located roughly two miles from the main campus of UVU, but Holland said the purchase was made in consideration of mass transit and the two sites will eventually be separated by a single FrontRunner stop.
Holland said the proposal had its initial skeptics, with early site visits at the Geneva Steel property resembling a "bombed out World War II city." But he added that seemingly overnight the location has transformed and continues to transform into what will be a significant addition to the community.
"There's such potential there and already we're seeing that," he said.