RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- ABC11 walked the western edge of Raleigh's St. Augustine's University where its president sees a new frontier.
"We're talking about a brand new neighborhood," said SAU President Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail. "It expands the campus and connects it with the community in a way. The community folks are excited about this."
The excitement she's talking about is about Saint Augustine's newly-announced deal with Atlanta-based real estate development firm, Carter. It's a plan to build a 320-unit multi-family project on 12 acres of under-utilized campus land -- adjacent to St. Augustine's stadium and near the corner of State and Glascock streets.
It's a $75 million project that landed in the lap of the chronically-under-funded university.
"It was an unsolicited proposal that the leadership team looked at and collaborated with the board on. And we're looking at how we could develop that," McPhail said.
David Nelson is the lead on the project. His company, Carter, has developed a billion dollars worth of residential, office and retail properties across the country. One of its newest projects was a similar campus lease deal with Morehouse College, a Historically Black College and University in Atlanta.
"It would be about a four-story project with parking that supports those units," Nelson said about the Saint Augustine's project. "After having just developed a project with Morehouse School of Medicine, we really enjoyed that process and that development and thought we could do something similar with SAU."
The project is expected to be a much-needed revenue generator for Saint Augustine's. But, how much revenue is still a question.
"We're negotiating. That's going to be a part of our ongoing negotiations, McPhail said. "And there are going to be questions of course about 'Did you think about doing this project with local developers?' The local developers didn't give us a proposal."
While McPhail and university leaders finalize details with Carter, they're also preparing to seek input from neighbors and alumni hoping to avoid the backlash that Raleigh's other HBCU, Shaw University, currently faces over the "Shaw U District," a plan to rezone and redevelop campus land by leasing property to outside developers.
"Instead of operating from weakness, we need to operate from a position of power," said Eugene Myrick a Shaw alumnus during community meetings about Shaw's plans last summer.
If there is future criticism that St. Augustine's is "selling out" to developers, McPhail has her response. "I'm going to say, nonsense. We are not selling any land. We are talking about a land lease. Here's an opportunity for Saint Augustine supporters, advisers and others to take a look at future development. This is just the beginning."
McPhail said she'll meet next month with faculty and students to talk about the plans with community conversations to come later.
At Carter, the company hopes to break ground within the next year with construction expected to last about two years.