AUM moves ahead with building sale
- Published: May 17, 2018
Antioch University is stepping up efforts to sell its Midwest campus building on the western edge of Yellow Springs.
Last week, a national real estate firm began marketing the 92,000-square-foot facility at 900 Dayton Street, built in 2007 for $15 million.
Selling the building would enable Antioch University Midwest to relocate to the Dayton area to be closer to current and prospective students, according to Antioch University Chancellor William Groves this week.
“It doesn’t seem like seven miles should make that much of a difference,” Groves said, referencing the school’s distance from I-675. “But it does.”
The building sale would also free up capital for the private, nonprofit university to invest directly in its programs rather than for maintenance, Groves said.
Enrollment declines at AUM, coupled with a shift to low-residency and online programs that require less physical space, were also factors in putting the building up for sale, Groves said. AUM’s enrollment fell from about 700 in the early 2000s to an estimated 400 by 2014, according to previous News articles. Groves declined to give a current enrollment figure.
However, the sale doesn’t mean AUM will definitely leave Yellow Springs, Groves said. For example, if an investor, rather than end user, purchases the building, AUM may consider leasing back some space. And a smaller Yellow Springs campus could be one of several “nodes” it operates in the region, along with others in South Dayton, Springfield and Columbus, he said.
“There’s just a wide array of possibilities. We’re not necessarily abandoning Yellow Springs altogether,” Groves said.
About 60 staff, core faculty and administration for both AUM and the university currently work in the AUM facility, according to Groves.
The university first made public its plan to sell the building in 2016, but is only now beginning an active campaign to do so. In recent years, the university, with 4,500 students at its five campuses across the country and in online programs, has begun to pivot towards leasing, rather than owning, its buildings. In 2015, Antioch University sold its Seattle campus building for $26.5 million, while it continues to own its New England campus in Keene, N.H.
“Ten years ago we wanted every campus to have a building, now we are on the opposite path,” Groves said. “The trend in higher education is to not own buildings because you want to be more nimble.”
The listing was released without a sale price, which Groves said is likely to be based upon how much renovation is needed. He declined to specify the minimum amount the university might accept.
“I’m not giving it away,” he offered.
According to figures in a 2016 financial report, AUM still owed $8.8 million on the building. The facility was built with $13 million in bonds secured by the Ohio Higher Education Facilities Commission, but the bonds were repaid several years ago and the building is currently financed through a commercial bank, Groves said. The rest of the building’s cost came from donations.
Regarding the timing of the sale, Groves said there is no urgency. Although he did not comment on the financial state of AUM specifically, he said that the university as a whole had stabilized financially. Previously, the News has reported university operational budget deficits of $7 million and $8 million for 2016 and 2017, respectively. The university, typical of many higher educational institutions today, remains tuition-dependent without an endowment, Groves said.
“We’re out of the woods, overall” he said of the financial picture. “But I think that certain programs will never get back to the size they were.”
Before moving to the edge of town, AUM, then called Antioch University McGregor, was located on the Antioch College campus. The new, much larger facility was justified, in part, by projections by former Chancellor Barbara Gellman Danley of 10 percent annual enrollment growth based upon AUM’s popular master’s of education degree and teacher licensure program. But a few years later, when a change in state law meant that a bachelor’s degree was sufficient for a teaching career in Ohio, the market for that program, AUM’s most successful, was “decimated,” Groves said.
Exploring possible uses
The university is now accepting proposals for the 11-acre property through commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., which is marketing the building to its national network. The building has 23 classrooms, meeting rooms, offices and an auditorium, along with 300 parking spaces, according to the listing. Although the building is ideally suited for educational purposes, it could also be configured for offices, which Groves conceded is more likely since the commercial market is larger.
A covenant limits the AUM property’s use to educational, commercial, medical, offices, light industrial, assembly, research, servicing, warehousing and distribution, according to Village Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger this week. It also prohibits some uses, including residential and retail (except as a secondary use). The covenants were initially placed on the property when local group Community Resources purchased a 46-acre parcel at the corner of E. Enon Road and Dayton-Yellow Springs Road for the Center for Business and Education using a no-loan interest Village loan. The group later split off and gifted 11 acres to AUM and the remaining land was transferred to the Village in 2016.
However, the siting of Cresco’s marijuana manufacturing facility adjacent to AUM, does not limit the property, according to Groves. While the Ohio law that legalized medical marijuana requires all manufacturing facilities to locate at least 500 feet away from primary and secondary schools as well as churches, that restriction does not apply if such an institution chooses to locate nearby after the marijuana facility has already been established. At the beginning of the year, Cresco switched parcels, moving closer to AUM, in order to reduce the amount, and cost, of utilities and infrastructure on the property, Village Manager Patti Bates confirmed this week.
Last year both the Yellow Springs School District and Greene County Educational Services Center made inquiries about the AUM building. Groves said he had “very good conversations” with the school district, but that they later turned towards other plans. At a school district Community Pulse meeting last summer, school board member Steve Conn said that the university approached the district with a $16 million to $16.5 million asking price. The facility also would need a major overhaul to meet district needs, as it has no cafeteria or gymnasium, Conn added, stating the district is not interested in the building.
AUM is an adult education institution that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees along with certificates, endorsements and licenses in the field of education. The entire university was re-accredited last year through 2023.
Antioch University was formed by Antioch College in 1978 and split from the college in 2009.