The University of Central Arkansas Board of Trustees agreed Friday to spend $294,200 to hire an architectural and engineering firm to draw up plans for Greek Village, a proposed, multimillion-dollar housing development.

"The only way to give the Board [of Trustees] the best numbers is to have someone on the ground," President Tom Courtway said.

The move is a first step toward building a major housing development — estimated to cost up to $18 million — to house fraternity and sorority members. Greek Village would go up on about 12.5 acres at the corner of Dave Ward Drive and Farris Road and could add about 350 beds at UCA. That would help relieve housing needs as the university continues to grow, officials said previously.

On Friday, the board agreed to hire Caradine Companies Architecture out of Little Rock. The company will provide professional architectural design and engineering services, according to documents presented at the meeting. The company will produce reproductions, geotechnical and surveying, engineering services and courier services and postage,

The proposed Village is large scale. Infrastructure alone for Greek Village is expected to cost about $4 million.

The university has been talking about Greek Village since about 2004, but the project fell through the cracks for years as UCA tried to rebuild its finances after going into the red in 2008. But, UCA is out of its financial hole, showing about $12 million in unrestricted cash revenue, and has not maxed its debt, which could be used to build new.

UCA officials said previously now is the time to act on Greek Village.

Besides low interest rates available to UCA, officials must work quickly if they want to prevent some of the university’s 22 fraternity and sorority organizations, and its 975 members, from building their own facilities off campus. One fraternity that currently leases a building from UCA will have the option to move off campus in about a year because of a contract with UCA made when the fraternity sold its property to the university.

Bids for the engineering and architectural services approved Friday went out May 16. Caradine beat out eleven firms that submitted proposals, which were reviewed by a committee. The state has reviewed and approved the method of financing and professional consultant services contract, according to the summary report.

At the same time, UCA is moving forward by once-again talking with students about Greek Village. At 6 p.m., UCA will host a Greek Convocation at Reynolds Performance Hall to talk with students about the Village "housing concept," according to a news release.

The meeting is informational only, but some trustees plan to attend.