The Louisiana State Bond Commission last week gave authority to start seeking loans on the second phase of a massive LSU project that includes a mixed-use development on Nicholson Drive and tearing down 52-year-old Kirby Smith Hall dormitory.

It’s called the LSU Greenhouse District Project and its entering the second phase. The Bond Commission vote allows LSU and its private partner, Provident Group-Flagship Properties to sell bonds to pay for it. The money will create housing for 695 students across the LSU Baton Rouge campus, including a new Cedar Hall, renovation of Evangeline Hall, abatement and renovation of Highland Hall. The proceeds also will be used to demolish Kirby Smith Hall along with existing greenhouse facilities.

Removing the greenhouses will make way for the third and final phase of the Nicholson Gateway Project, which includes development of about 2,000 beds for students, 38,000 square feet of retail space and 10,000 square feet of recreational space for students. The retail space will cater to students, faculty, staff and campus visitors.

Nicholson Gateway is on a 28-acre site along Nicholson between West Chimes Street and Skip Bertman Drive – where the married student housing complex and old Alex Box Stadium once stood near the western edge of the campus.

The project is expected to create approximately 325 temporary construction jobs and an estimated five new permanent jobs plus retain 23 permanent jobs in the local economy.

The 13-story Kirby Smith Hall, which is behind the Greek Theater on campus, was home to many a male student since the 13-story building opened in 1965. It was closed for five years, then reopened in 2011 after a $1.7 million makeover that replaced ceiling tiles, carpets and other renovations.

Kirby Smith once housed 700 male students. After the 2011 renovation, about 500 male and female students lived there.

The Bond Commission allowed the sale of up to $100 million in Lease Revenue Bonds that would pay investors not more than 6 percent interest.

The bonds will be issued by the Louisiana Public Facilities Authority for the benefit of Provident-Flagship and will be repaid with rental income from on-campus residents. The housing projects are not part of the university’s operating budget, but LSU will control the housing.

Using a private partner allows LSU to finance projects faster than going through the state Capital Outlay Process, which doesn’t have enough money to pay for the projects being sought by legislators.

Phase Three of the project is set to begin in 2019 and will add dorm space for more students and demolish several 1960s-era residence halls, including Acadian, Broussard, Herget, McVoy and Miller halls.

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