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Moon officials approve Robert Morris University's hotel-to-dorm plan

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Robert Morris University will contribute $230,000 over a three-year period toward traffic improvements along University Boulevard in Moon as part of a deal with township officials to allow a former hotel to be converted to a dormitory.

Moon supervisors voted, 4-0, on Monday to approve rezoning the former Holiday Inn and 11 other properties for use as a Robert Morris dormitory to be called Yorktown Hall. The hotel property is less than a mile from RMU's campus off University Boulevard.

The supervisors granted a conditional use request to allow the building to become a dormitory. Supervisor Frank Sinatra was absent.

University officials agreed to several conditions, including the voluntary contribution that will go toward traffic signal and other improvements at the intersection of University Boulevard and Campus Drive, the main campus access road.

One consultant came up with a worst-case scenario that could cost as much as $700,000, university officials said, and RMU would pay the difference between the $230,000 and remaining costs of intersection improvements. If the traffic improvements don't total $230,000, any surplus would go to the township's general fund.

The $230,000 sum is the equivalent of 10 years of property tax revenue on the former Holiday Inn, which closed on July 15. The university purchased the 11-story building for $10 million at a sheriff's sale in 2011, a year after it began leasing rooms for student housing because of expanded enrollment.

Supervisors had expressed concerns about the safety of students walking between the former Holiday Inn and campus.

RMU will build sidewalks along the front of the former hotel property, if feasible, but the township won't require the university to install them in front of the other commercial properties along the way to campus.

“The real solution is to find a way for students not to walk,” said university attorney B. Lafe Metz. He told supervisors that student shuttles would run about every 10 minutes between the two locations, at an annual cost of $300,000.

Other conditions for supervisors' approval include a 50-foot buffer zone between the building and the adjacent Rosemont housing plan, and abandoning an access road that connects the hotel property and Rosemont.

The university previously offered to build sidewalks between the campus drive and the Beaver Grade Road intersection at a cost of $80,000, but supervisors dropped that requirement in favor of the intersection improvements.

“We're very pleased,” university President Gregory Dell'Omo said. “It was a very thorough, exhaustive process. Now we're very excited to have 502 students (to be housed there) in the middle of August.”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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