RMU seeks to convert hotel into dorm

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 11:28 p.m.

Robert Morris University wants to convert a 10-story Holiday Inn near campus into student-only housing in time for the fall semester, officials say.

“This is not without precedent,” spokesman Jonathan Potts said of the proposed conversion, noting the university's Braddock Hall on Grant Drive is a former nursing home.

The growing university began leasing floors in the Holiday Inn in 2010 to accommodate students who couldn't find housing on campus and bought it later for $10.15 million. Last year, students occupied about half of the building while a management company ran the rest as a hotel, Potts said.

The university has asked Moon for conditional approval to operate the hotel strictly as a dorm. Dorms are not allowed in the existing commercial zoning district that extends to Moon-Clinton Road.

The conversion would occur about three years sooner than school officials originally planned when they bought the hotel.

Potts said increasing enrollment, much of it from outside the region, led the university to move sooner. Enrollment grew from 4,815 in 2008 to 5,181 in 2012, almost 8 percent, he said.

If approved, about 475 students would live in the building's 250 double-occupancy rooms and a new dining facility could be built inside, Potts said.

A public meeting on the university's request will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Moon municipal building auditorium, 1000 Beaver Grade Road.

Moon supervisors Chairman Marv Eicher said he is concerned about students' safety. The hotel is about a mile from campus, along a bustling four-lane street with no sidewalks.

“That is a state highway going through,” Eicher said of University Boulevard, adding a planned Wal-Mart development nearby could make it difficult for students with cars to turn left out of the Holiday Inn property toward campus.

Eicher said Robert Morris operates a shuttle service that leaves the hotel every 10 to 15 minutes, up from every half-hour when the university bought the building.

Eicher is concerned about the hotel coming completely off the tax rolls. It receives a 70 percent tax exemption now, according to Creese.

The 17.6-acre hotel property has an assessed value of $6.52 million, Allegheny County records show. Without any exemption, the university would pay about $16,170 in annual property taxes to the township, $118,121 to Moon Area School District and about $30,839 to Allegheny County, based on 2013 tax rates.

Staff writer Matthew Santoni contributed to this report.

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