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Education

Lindenwood Bought Belleville Campus For $1. Now The City Plans To Buy It Back For $3M

 Lindenwood University's campus in Belleville. The city has plans to buy the property back from the university and is planning to repurpose the site.
Mike Koziatek
/
Belleville News-Democrat
Lindenwood University's campus in Belleville. The city has plans to buy the property back from the university and is planning to repurpose the site.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Belleville has plans to buy the Lindenwood University-Belleville campus for $3 million and is in the preliminary stages of a plan for repurposing the site on West Main Street.

Lindenwood, which is based in St. Charles, Missouri, bought the property from the city in 2003 for $1 and developed it into an east-side campus. But in May 2019, the university announced that it was losing $2.5 million to $3 million annually at the campus and would close classes for full-time students.

The City Council on Monday unanimously authorized city officials to complete negotiations to buy the school buildings, dormitories, including a former hotel converted into a dorm, and parking lots from Lindenwood.

The proposal also includes the former Harmony School site off at 500 Wilshire Drive. Lindenwood had bought this site for $1 in 2014 but demolished the former school in 2016.

Mayor Patty Gregory said Lindenwood University invested $42 million in improving the site, which had long been the campus of Belleville West High School.

City Attorney Garrett Hoerner said the city is in “preliminary planning stages” of a future use for the campus and that it’s too early to say whether the city would sell the property to another group or lease it.

“Nothing has been finalized yet but we want to make that an extremely viable part of our community and have something that’s going to be great for the community long term,” Gregory said after the City Council meeting.

“I do believe that it’s going to be a very great stabilizing factor for that neighborhood,” she said. “There’s been a lot invested there and we want to move forward and not backward.”

Gregory said she expects the deal with Lindenwood to be closed within 45 days.

The purchase “will ensure that the city controls repurposing of the entire campus,” according to a new release from the city.Hoerner said part of the sale would include a stipulation that the development agreement the city signed with Lindenwood would be terminated. This agreement had called for the city to give Lindenwood $150,000 annually.

The campus is at 2600 W. Main St. and is located next to an Illinois State Police forensics laboratory that was valued at $42 million when it opened in 2014.

The City Council went into a closed session Monday night to discuss a real estate transaction and then voted 16-0 in open session to support the plan to buy the Lindenwood properties for $3 million.

This proposal between Belleville and Lindenwood does not include the homes and apartment buildings that Lindenwood had purchased for student housing.

Lindenwood sold more than 50 homes and apartment buildings earlier this year for about $4.45 million to a real estate company.

The homes and apartments had been used by Lindenwood University students until the college ended its program for full-time undergraduate students last school year.

The university sold 57 parcels in four transactions on March 2 to House Sold Easy Properties LLC, according to property records with the St. Clair County Recorder of Deeds.

Lindenwood once had more 1,200 undergraduate students and a full complement of sports teams, including a football team. But during this past spring semester, there were only 36 students, a university spokeswoman said earlier this year.

It was the home to Belleville West High School before a new high school building was built near the intersection of Frank Scott Parkway and Illinois 15.

Mike Koziatek is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

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