The Alexander Lumber property located at 212 E. South St. was recently purchased by the college with hopes of creating a new center for the Office of Communications.
Vice President for Finance Tom Axtell explained the rationale behind the acquisition as a move to secure available space within close proximity to the campus. The purchased property includes a large amount of open space, as well as a building in usable condition.
“It’s within the college’s core area. It would round out almost half of a block, which potentially could be used for all kinds of things, and they have one building that’s in very good shape, which we could use immediately,” Axtell said.
The property’s location was a significant reason that the land was purchased, according to Axtell.
“There’s a defined area that, when properties become available within it, we’re very interested in. The board said, ‘This is our core area,’ and a large chunk of that in a contiguous space was very attractive for whatever purposes we might have,” Axtell said.
By using the college’s property acquisition line of credit, the purchase will not hinder works currently in progress.
“It’s not competing with any other capital projects on campus; a number of years ago we set up a property acquisition line of credit with our current bank,” Axtell said. “ … We have a property acquisition line for the express purpose of financing property acquisition and renovation.”
The property acquisition line of credit was set up in the case that a property became available, allowing the school to act quickly when the opportunity arose.
“It [the property acquisition line] was intended exactly for this kind of thing, and we don’t use it very often but we didn’t want to be caught with a very good opportunity without capital appropriation,” Axtell said.
Land acquisitions are difficult to plan for, making it all the more essential to be prepared when the opportunity arises. Timing and available funding played key roles in the college’s ability to capitalize on the chance to expand.
“It was a strategic acquisition, and I just think it was very good fortune that there was both an immediate need and plans to acquire land for any future plans that might arise,” Axtell said. “We had good timing; we had the financing already in place. Though we had no idea that this would be the exact thing we would be doing, we set up the capital acquisition line years and years ago.”
Several plans concerning what to do with the land are currently in progress, including an organized land swap with the property’s neighbor and Aluminum Casting, as well as plans to move the Office of Communications into the available space.
“Prior to the acquisition, their neighbor, who is not likely ever to move, Aluminum Casting, was very interested in the Alexander Lumber property too. We eventually worked it out so that we won the bid from Mr. Alexander, who is very interested in higher education anyway,” Axtell said.
One of the agreements between Aluminum Casting and the college was that upon the purchase of the property, they would work together to arrange the land so that it is maximally efficient for both parties.
“We got the land, but they were very interested in a piece situated directly next to their property, and we were interested in a piece of theirs situated closer to the college, so even before the acquisition, we had conversations with them about potentially doing a land swap after we acquired the property,” Axtell said.
As either the college or Aluminum Casting now owns the vast majority of the block, the property lines can be easily redrawn.
“So the idea was to essentially divide the block in half, with us taking the half closest to campus, making it a much more useful and contiguous space for us. The biggest reason we are interested in the land swap is because there’s no exchange of money. We’re essentially dividing the property lines,” Axtell said.
The building is intended to house the new Office of Communications. Talks between the communications unit and a local architect, in which the logistics of the process are discussed, have begun, though a concrete schedule has not yet been set.
“There are evolving plans; we’re working on it now. A group that’s working on it is the new communications unit, so the entire group has been meeting with a local architect and our facilities director Scott Maust. They’re working out internal configurations and so on, and when plans are done, we’ll get a cost estimate,” Axtell said.
Axtell foresees no obstacles that might impede progress.
“I am fully anticipating that it will fall within the limits of our property acquisition line, so I don’t anticipate a funding issue. The plans are currently being developed, and I think they’re making pretty good progress,” he said.