Leaders at Eastern Kentucky University are looking for a private developer to build a $40 million hotel adjacent to its performing arts center.
The Council on Postsecondary Education on Thursday unanimously voted to allow EKU to collect bids from companies willing to build and operate a 175,000-square-foot hotel next to the $32 million performing arts center near Richmond's bypass. The arts center is expected to open in 2011, and the hotel project is to be completed in 2012.
EKU will provide a long-term land lease to the private developer but won't be on the hook for the financial success of the hotel, said EKU President Doug Whitlock.
"Our conference folks turn away several major conferences a year because the people who are putting on the conferences want convenient lodging," Whitlock said.
EKU's board of regents approved the project last month. Whitlock said two companies have expressed interest. But the university needed the council's permission and now must get the state's capital projects and bond oversight committee to sign off on it.
Thursday, the council also voted to allow EKU to build a $1.5 million radio and cell phone transmission tower with federal and university funds. Whitlock said the tower should generate income for EKU from cell phone companies' rent.
And the council gave the go-ahead to the University of Kentucky to build a second Center for Applied Energy Research Laboratory at the Spindletop campus that will contain labs for its new battery manufacturing research venture. UK has applied for a $4 million federal grant to add to the scope of the project, which now will cost nearly $19.8 million.
Also at the meeting, the council:
■ Approved four new degree programs, including a doctorate in education leadership, at Morehead State University. That is the only type of doctoral degree that regional universities are allowed by law to provide, although King said the council will ask lawmakers to amend that so those universities may offer doctorates in nursing practices.
■ Briefly outlined the tuition-setting process for the 2010-11 academic year. The council will meet April 23 to debate limits on tuition increases for the eight public universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. Last year, the council placed caps of 3 percent on the community colleges, 4 percent on regional universities and 5 percent on the two research universities, UK and the University of Louisville. The council is waiting until April, after the General Assembly passes a two-year budget that includes higher education funding.
■ Elected former Gov. Paul Patton as the council's chairman for a second year and former Lexington Mayor Pam Miller as vice chairman to succeed Dan E. Flanagan because his term limit of three years was up.