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Thread: How would you re-purpose a closed-down college?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    How would you re-purpose a closed-down college?

    Some of y'all may have already heard about this, but a small women's college in an adjoining county announced last week that they were permanently closing the school effective in August. This is a 3,000+ acre space with expansive grounds. Financially, I'm not sure how it has survived this long, but it has always been meticulously maintained and has been a huge diamond in an otherwise mostly rural area.

    Here's the issue: there are some pretty serious restrictions in place. The property was legally set aside for the purpose of an "all-white women's college" and restricts the sell of the land. The "all-white" portion was legally amended in the 60s, but it doesn't look like the women's-only portion will be as easy to amend.

    They just recently completely a multi-million dollar library project, and have all the services and amenities that a very expensive college would provide and then some, including horse stables and expansive riding trails.

    So, just for fun, and understanding some of the restrictions, what creative uses can you think of for this property?

    Here's one of many articles that are available as background, but this focuses less on the students and more on some of the other impacts: http://www.theatlantic.com/education...#disqus_thread.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Would it revert back to the heirs of whoever provided that land?

    Mike

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I have no idea. Maybe the lawyers already know that and are just not sharing that information because it would upset people even more than the announcement already has. There may be some contingencies for that scenario included in the restrictive covenants. What the news outlets have been saying is that it will probably bring up the principle of "cy-pres" (the closest use that is feasible in the case that the exact intention of the will cannot be fulfilled).

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I don't know if that would be feasible here. There is another large university about half an hour away, but they haven't expressed any interest in acquiring the property. But maybe there are other universities or colleges that would like to expand to another campus. I don't think the covenants would allow the sale of the property for any sort of government administrative use, and even if it did, this is a solid 2 hour drive from our capitol. I am wondering if they'd be able to lease the campus to another organization or group, and then maybe use the money to fund scholarships for women or something along those lines.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I'm just going to throw out some ideas for fun and maybe for sarcasm.

    Our college (also all women) is now a state police training center and precinct. Granted it doesn't have the same amenities and for the most part is just two buildings.

    Riding academy (women only). Go ahead and learn the equestrian arts.

    Conference center (again women only). At last women can go to a conference and not be harassed by their male counter parts who are not only bored, but horny and away from their wives.

    White collar prison (do I need to say women only).

    Historic education center (okay this one might not be women only). Actually use it to teach people some history. It was a plantation, it was founded for a reason. Make sure people understand the intentional or unintentional racial divide of the school. Turn some of it over to research for people to better understand the issues. Of course good luck getting funding for that kind of thing, but it's a nice idea.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmmm

    A national repository for sexual offenders and a treatment center. That would be great! Then the rest of us could ship our worst cases out that direction for treatment. What do you think?
    You would REALLY be doing the rest of the USA a solid

    On a serious note: Now Mark Cuban and other flat earth types are pointing at this example of a failed college as a reason to gut our liberal arts education system in favor of a system designed to only serve the johnny come lately technical profiteering needs of the corporate rule makers......aka teach kids to OBEY! their corporate masters and not be educated to think for themselves. Classic, let's break the system through de-funding then mold it to our needs.
    Last edited by The One; 11 Mar 2015 at 3:40 PM.
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
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  8. #8
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    A women's retreat center with other amenities, like a study center, battered women shelter in one of the dorms perhaps, alcohol treatment center in another dorm

    that covenant is really tough to work with, on top of that you will have to find financial partners

    maybe it's a high end elderly care, assisted living center for women

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Haha - if it's a women's prison, and they provide educational services to them, does it still meet the intent of the covenants?

    It is a really beautiful campus. I would love to see it be used for some sort of noble purpose (the most amazing summer camp ever for underpriviledged girls, for example), but the amount of money it takes to maintain would preclude most of those uses.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Maybe it could be remodeled and reused as an office park.

    I do remember seeing a former three-story elementary school that had been reused as an antique mall. Each room contained a different vendor.
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I don't know who Mark Cuban is but many small liberal arts colleges are facing a real crisis. They got caught up in the spiral of rising tuition and rising expectations, pricing themselves out of many people's budgets and they tried to counter that by offering more financial aid and scholarships by rising the tuition even more on the richer students, and to make things work they allowed more and more students to take out huge loans to pay the higher tuitions, which no 18 year old student has any business doing. To keep competitive and to attract as many students as possible, the colleges felt compelled to offer better and fancier facilities, straining their budgets.

    It really is a very dysfunctional situation facing many higher education institutions in the US. The tuition and student loan crisis is a real problem. And the irony is that it's a liberal, not a conservative problem, because higher education is thoroughly dominated by liberal Americans and it is they who allow 18 year old students take out tens if not over 100K in loans for what is effectively a meaningless degree.

    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    A national repository for sexual offenders and a treatment center. That would be great! Then the rest of us could ship our worst cases out that direction for treatment. What do you think?
    You would REALLY be doing the rest of the USA a solid

    On a serious note: Now Mark Cuban and other flat earth types are pointing at this example of a failed college as a reason to gut our liberal arts education system in favor of a system designed to only serve the johnny come lately technical profiteering needs of the corporate rule makers......aka teach kids to OBEY! their corporate masters and not be educated to think for themselves. Classic, let's break the system through de-funding then mold it to our needs.
    Sweet Briar is in the middle of nowhere. And I mean, nowhere.

    It could possibly be converted into a fancy resort like the Greenbrier?

    Quote Originally posted by Coragus View post
    Maybe it could be remodeled and reused as an office park.

    I do remember seeing a former three-story elementary school that had been reused as an antique mall. Each room contained a different vendor.
    Last edited by mendelman; 12 Mar 2015 at 11:14 AM.

  12. #12
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Winery. I would make a winery. And maybe a restaurant. And a bed and breakfast.

    Or something along those lines.

    ---

    If I was a community with one, I would push for breaking up of the campus to make the scale smaller so more uses could be considered.
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  13. #13
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Is there an entity still in existence that would fight proposal that does not adhere to the 'women's college' restriction?

    Someone should go to court to have a judge remove the deed restriction and then do something cool. I bet there are any number of super wealthy Georgians that would love to own such a piece of property.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    They'd have to move to Virginia to own it (I went to GT, but live in VA now), but yes, there are plenty of people that would love to own it. I don't know what'll end up happening. Hopefully something that doesn't lead to complete development or neglect of the property!

    I like the resort center. And I'm sure if the lawyers think they can get the restrictions removed, they will pursue it. It doesn't sound like going co-ed is going to be something that this board pursues, though. Maybe if another college wants to take it over and try for that, it might gain some traction.

  15. #15
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by gtpeach View post
    They'd have to move to Virginia to own it...
    D'oh. Me dummy...not read well.

    It's an interesting situation and case in any event.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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  16. #16
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    Upsala College in East Orange, NJ shut down in 1995 in similar circumstances.

    The east campus was sold to the school district and the main campus buildings were put into use by the high school and a new high school building and sports fields built. The west part of campus was largely looted and vandalized. It was razed in an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe. It's a residential development now. It's not bad, but it's out of character from the rest of the city's housing stock both in terms of lot size (ranging from 1/3 to 1/2 acre-typical lot is 30 x100) and sold at the height of the market for 300K-500K. Considering the extraordinarily high property tax which averages 13K-16K per year on these homes that fund a failed school district, high insurance rates, and lack of amenities public services almost all of these homes are underwater and a number are in foreclosure.

    West side http://goo.gl/yppQ5S
    East side http://goo.gl/jphBWW
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  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by gtpeach View post
    So, just for fun, and understanding some of the restrictions, what creative uses can you think of for this property?
    Seems like this would be a great setting for a retirement community—might need to upgrade the medical facilities.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    The nice part about the retirement community idea is that then they'd hopefully be able to utilize the homes that the professors themselves paid to have built on the property grounds. It probably wouldn't materialize quickly enough for the current owners to benefit.

    Tell you what, all the grandkids would have a field day on those grounds!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Here's another article from our local paper. To be honest, I'm a little surprised that the percentage of utilities used by the college isn't higher, but there is a little stretch of overdeveloped commercial area along the highway right outside the city limits that must be accounting for the rest of the usage.

    http://www.newsadvance.com/new_era_p...38a3617c7.html

  20. #20
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Given cy-pres, what's a more similar use to an all-women college - a coeducational college, or an all-women institution of some kind? I'd say it's the former.

    Who enforces the conditions of a 100-something year old will? The state of Virginia?
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  21. #21
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I would consider an approach somewhat similar to the Presidio. There could be an opportunity for a higher education component, retreat center, non-profit organizations, research facilities, etc. You might develop around a theme such as regional ecology, womyn's issues, etc. Did the college have a specialty?
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  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    That's always a question with any sort of restrictive covenants on property. Basically, if a restriction isn't adhered to, my understanding is that it would have to go through a civil court process to be enforced, which would only happen if there was someone that cared enough about the restriction being enforced to initiate the process (normally an adjacent property owner or an angry sibling that felt slighted by the will or something along those lines). In this case, though, the restrictions are very well known, so they can't get away with pleading ignorance. Based on this Business Insider article, a judge would have to amend the will before I'm guessing any other organization's lawyers would allow them to take on the risk of doing anything with the land aside from its orginal intended use.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/sweet...stament-2015-3

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    It was a very well-respected regional school, but I don't know that it was really well-known for a specific educational program. It did a very good job developing leadership skills in women, though, so maybe they could create some sort of Women's Leadership Institute. That would actually be really cool.

  24. #24
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Did the college have a specialty?
    Equestrian activities, supposedly.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  25. #25
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ahhh.....

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Equestrian activities, supposedly.
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