WORTHINGTON — Seven gold spades turned dirt and broke ground Thursday on Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s first student housing development.

Bluejay Villas, a 108-bed, three-story student dwelling being constructed on the college’s Worthington campus, is slated to open in fall 2018.

“This historical milestone is the result of many friends working in close collaboration to address a specific housing shortage and to provide a new dimension to our Worthington campus — residential life,” said Minnesota West President Terry Gaalswyk during Thursday’s ceremony. “We are grateful for their determination and advocacy in helping our community’s college, Minnesota West, attract and retain our most important resource — our students, the talent of southwest Minnesota.”

The $6.2 million publicly and privately financed project will feature fully furnished units with both private and shared bedrooms and bathrooms.

The student housing development is being constructed to the west of the college and practice field with parking off Crailsheim Road north of the baseball field. The project is being designed by Bluffstone LLC, a student housing development company out of Davenport, Iowa.

According to Kelly Young, Bluffstone’s director of student housing operations, Bluejay Villas will also feature an attached common room devoted to student life. The area will include a manager’s office, 24-hour fitness center, mailboxes, laundry facilities, lounge, study space and ping pong and pool tables.

“The next couple of months you won’t believe what you’ll see, and it’s all for students and the community,” Young told the group gathered for Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Minnesota District 22 Sen. Bill Weber and Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle also spoke about the contributions from the state and city toward the project.

Weber, along with District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, sponsored and supported legislation that secured a $500,000 state grant for the project.

Weber, R-Luverne, said the importance and collaboration that both Minnesota West and the city of Worthington demonstrated helped with the decision.

“It’s really important … to know that you have been looking out for each other, and recognize that expanding housing on the campus helps the housing shortage that the entire community is experiencing,” Weber said.

He added that it is an honor to represent an area with people that work together to find mutual solutions to common problems.

The city of Worthington also approved providing a $900,000 loan to the project, Kuhle said. He noted that the Bluejay Villas should provide growth, economic development and jobs in the area.

“It relieves pressure of the housing market,” he said.

Young added that the project is also being funded by a combination of private funding and equity. She said First National Bank of Fulda has been a tremendous partner in the project.

First National Bank of Fulda and First American State Bank of Bettendorf, Iowa are private funders of the project.

The process to bring student housing to the Worthington campus began more than a year ago when a housing committee reviewed proposals from developers before choosing Bluffstone.

According to Amber Luinenberg, Minnesota West director of marketing, enrollment and communication, considering everything goes as planned, a second phase that would include an additional 108 beds may be developed at a future date. A rendering depicts phase two as a potential future southern attachment to the Bluejay Villas currently under construction.

The college is now accepting applications for fall 2018. For more information or to lease a suite, contact a leasing specialist at 360-0902 or mnw@thevillaslife.com.

Bluejay Villas (@bluebayvillas) is also on social media sites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.