Former Johnson & Wales Denver campus is bought to ULC

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Denver-based nonprofit Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), Denver Public Schools (DPS), and Denver Housing Authority (DHA) have purchased the former campus of Johnson & Wales University Denver. The campus is located on the southwest corner of Montview Boulevard and Quebec Street and comprises 13 buildings on approximately 25 acres. According to NAI Shames Makovsky, DPS paid $ 30 million and DHA paid $ 9.5 million. What ULC paid was not disclosed.

Last summer, the university announced it would cease operations in Denver after the 2020/21 school year and attempted to sell the entire 25-acre campus. ULC plans to keep the campus for community use.

“We are pleased that the buyer is a community-based organization with a rich heritage in maintaining and redesigning campuses throughout the greater Denver area. ULC’s mission-driven focus was evident in its ability to work immediately with the Denver Housing Authority, Denver Public Schools and St. Elizabeth’s School on key components of the campus, ”said Joseph Greene, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Johnson & University of Wales .

Campus partner

Upon completion of this transaction, DPS owns the west side of the campus and plans to expand the Denver School of the Arts (DSA) and use the campus as a community arts center. “When I heard that the [Johnson & Wales] The university was going to sell the property across the street and I started thinking about how DSA could be expanded onto campus to support more students, ”said Dr. Anthony McWright, principal of the Denver School of the Arts. The expansion will allow the DSA to accommodate 500 to 700 additional students over time, with an emphasis on equal opportunities and the inclusion of low-income and black students. The west campus includes the Wildcat Center, Whatley Chapel, Academic Center, and Aspen Hall.

The Denver Housing Authority (DHA) bought the southern portion of the campus, which includes Triangolo Hall and Gaebe Hall, two former dormitory buildings, with the aim of expanding affordable housing in the community. “DHA is excited about this unique partnership to provide affordable housing opportunities in Denver and looks forward to working with the surrounding neighborhoods to create a vibrant community with our partners on campus,” said David Nisivoccia, Executive Director the Denver Housing Authority. Both DHA and DPS were represented in this transaction by Dorit Fischer and Hayden Hirschfeld at NAI Shames Makovsky.

ULC is the new owner of the east side of the campus and holds the land on a 99-year long lease that maintains its affordability and commitment to community-based uses over the long term. ULC works with the following organizations who lease and / or buy buildings on the east campus:

  1. St. Elizabeth’s School, which will move to Centennial Hall, has served Northeast Denver for the past 15 years as a purposely inclusive school with a commitment to equal opportunity, belonging and educational opportunities for all students. The school’s community represents the mix of races, ethnicities, beliefs, and family cultures that make up Denver. They believe that every family should have affordable and sustainable access to great education for their children, and an individual lesson plan enables the school to accommodate families from a broad socio-economic spectrum that is truly representative of the neighborhoods it serves.
  2. BuCu West / The kitchen network, Denver’s longest running community kitchen hatching specialty grocery stores will expand to the Culinary Arts Building and Vail Hall on campus, allowing the organization to more than double its impact and number of small businesses served. The nonprofit has acquired renowned JWU chef Jorge de la Torre and will also work with Emily Griffith Technical College to offer culinary training and certification.
  3. Archway communities will acquire all four residential buildings on the East Campus: Johnson Hall, Wales Hall, President’s Hall and Founder’s Hall. Archway improves lives by providing affordable housing, food security, and the supportive social services people need to be successful.

Meeting the needs of the community

The campus is at the intersection of two very different communities: South Park Hill, with an average income of $ 141,851 and 6.06 percent of families in poverty, and East Colfax, with an average household income of $ 57,413, and 23.6 percent of families in poverty. The acquisition of the property promotes the goals of ULC, which intervenes in the real estate market in metropolitan areas for low-income, disadvantaged communities currently threatened by gentrification.

“We recognize the foresight of Dr. Anthony McWright for seeing this opportunity to expand DSA to serve more students and that he reached out to ULC to work with DPS to that end and for more charitable causes. We look forward to turning this into a wallless campus, ”said Aaron Miripol, President and CEO of ULC. He adds, “It all happened in a very tight time frame. We have been able to forge great partnerships with local nonprofits, foundations, and lenders within that time due to great partnerships. In particular, ULC’s access to low-interest debt through the Metro Denver Impact Facility (MDIF) was critical to our acquisition of the campus. “

MDIF lenders include FirstBank, CHFA, Gates Family Foundation (GFF), The Colorado Health Foundation (CHF), Gary Community Investments (GCI), Colorado Trust, and Northern Trust. GFF, CHF and GCI each awarded grant dollars, and the Kenneth King Foundation provided a zero percent loan to aid the acquisition.

The partners will begin the transition to the campus in the summer. St. Elizabeth’s plans to start the 2021-22 school year at its new location this August and has reached an understanding with current and future student families regarding the move. Other partner organizations will move to campus over a longer period of time. For example, DSA is requiring renovations to prepare buildings for the unique needs of music, dance and theater programs, and plans to start teaching on campus in the 2022-23 school year. The Watson Wenk Group will be promoting collaboration with community members and stakeholders, both collectively and organizationally, over the coming weeks and months to determine uses and guidelines for campus open spaces and facilities.

The CBRE university specialists Nina Farrell and Karlen Beitman from the CBRE group Public Institutions and Education Solutions (PIES) represented JWU in the sale, together with Martin Roth and Eric Roth from the CBRE platforms Land Services and Capital Markets.

Both DHA and DPS were represented in this transaction by Dorit Fischer and Hayden Hirschfeld from NAI Shames Makovsky.

Photo courtesy of ULC

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