New Student Housing Supports University Of North Carolina Pembroke Goal To Increase College Access

with Investment from Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, a partnership between Woodforest National Bank and CEI-Boulos Capital Management
Aug 25, 2021

THE WOODLANDS, Texas, Aug. 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, a high-impact commercial real estate Opportunity Zone fund established by Woodforest National Bank® and CEI-Boulos Capital Management, announced its $3 million equity investment in 698 Prospect, a student housing project, partly powered by on-site solar, which will serve the population of University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP). UNCP is one of three "NC Promise" campuses in the UNC system that limits in-state tuition costs to $500 per semester to keep college affordable to low-income students. Future enrollment at the school is limited by a lack of affordable student housing, an issue that the project will address. UNCP is designated as a Native-American Serving Nontribal Institution (NASNTI). UNCP was founded by seven American Indian members with regional tribal affiliations to provide access to education for groups otherwise denied that right. Most of the town of Pembroke's 3,000 people are members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, the largest American Indian tribe east of the Mississippi. Today, the University and the Lumbee Tribe enjoy a strong partnership.

New student housing in Pembroke, NC, with investment from Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, supports University of North Carolina at Pembroke goal to expand college access for students with low incomes.

New student housing in Pembroke, NC, with investment from Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund, supports University of North Carolina at Pembroke goal to expand college access for students with low incomes.

The first phase of the project will create 48 four-bedroom units with 192 beds of student housing adjacent to the university in this small, rural town. A second phase of the project will create 90 additional units with 306 beds. The second phase also includes 20,000 square feet of retail space. The development team for the project includes EquityPlus and a Lumbee-owned firm, Lumbee-University One at Pembroke; the property is managed by PeakMade Real Estate.

Rooftop solar arrays offset about 25% of the project's energy needs. In addition, exterior lighting will be solar powered. The developer expects to install a similar system in upcoming phases to increase the percentage of energy offset by solar. Solar carports and a solar-covered walkway for students walking to class are also planned.

"CEI-Boulos Capital Management is committed to harnessing the Opportunity Zone incentive to serve its intended purpose – to invest in catalytic projects that can help revitalize underinvested communities, like Pembroke," said Sam Spencer, CEO and Managing Director, CEI-Boulos Capital Management. "We're thrilled to be working with our partners at Equity Plus and Lumbee-University One at Pembroke on a project delivering social and environmental impact. The investment is a great example of the fund's efforts to leverage private capital to help address the nation's renewed focus on racial and economic disparity."

"Our Fund is designed to be responsive to community needs," said Doug Schaeffer, Executive Vice President, CRA Executive Director, Woodforest National Bank. "By creating much needed affordable student housing, this investment will expand access to higher education. We are thrilled to be supporting pathways that will allow many first-generation students to obtain the education needed to pursue their dreams."

Pembroke is located in Robeson County, one of 431 "persistent poverty counties" in the country, a classification which means that 20 percent or more of its population has lived in poverty for at least 30 years. The project is consistent with and supports the town's plan for downtown revitalization. The retail component of the project second's phase will help create 30-40 jobs at small businesses that will occupy the commercial space.

"We look at ourselves as an anchor economic institution for southeastern North Carolina and we proudly take on the responsibility that comes along with that," said Jodi Phelps, Chief Communications and Marketing Officer, UNCP. "We can't grow unless the town and local economy grows with us. When we all thrive together, we collectively increase access to a high-quality, affordable college education for students of all backgrounds."

"Without the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund's Opportunity Zone equity investment, the project would not be possible," said Avram Fetcher, Managing Director, EquityPlus, a privately held investment and advisory firm serving as the developer of the project. "This is an example of an Opportunity Zone investment happening for the right reason and making the difference between a project going forward or not."

The is one of ten high-impact investments made to date by the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund. Additional financing for the project includes a loan from Self-Help Credit Union a Durham, NC-based community development finance institution.

The Opportunity Zones program is a community investment tool established by Congress in 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income communities nationwide. Opportunity Zones are low-income census tracts nominated by governors and certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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