PFW to potentially add site near campus

December 3rd, 2018

By Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Purdue University Fort Wayne officials hope to breathe new life into the site of an ill-fated educational institution near the north-side campus.

The university is in negotiations to buy the 76,000-square-foot former Brown Mackie College building at 3000 Coliseum Blvd. E. The 24-acre property includes ponds, fountains, trails and about 565 parking spaces.

Chancellor Ron Elsenbaumer notified the campus community Thursday about the potential purchase, which must be approved by the Purdue University Board of Trustees before it can be finalized.

The item is expected to be on the agenda at the board's next meeting, scheduled for Friday in West Lafayette.

Nicole Hahn, Purdue Fort Wayne's spokeswoman, said local officials won't grant interviews about the pending deal until after the trustees vote.

The path to approval appears to be pretty smooth, however, considering that the purchase would be funded through a combination of philanthropy and external sources rather than taken from an existing budget.

The building could house the Doermer School of Business, a new Career Services Center, the Office of Communications and Marketing, the Office of Development, the Small Business Development Center, the Division of Continuing Studies, and the Wellness and Health Center, Elsenbaumer said in an email to faculty and staff.

Those are the preliminary plans, anyway. Moving those operations “will also open up additional space on the main campus for other academic and student use,” he said.

Sturges Property Group had listed the site, which is about one-quarter of a mile from the Purdue Fort Wayne campus, with a $4 million price tag. Brad Sturges, the firm's president, declined Friday to disclose the negotiated sale price.

But he described the property as a great opportunity for Purdue to expand its local presence.

“As opposed to building a building, this will be a fraction of the cost for them,” Sturges said, adding that the facility includes rooms already set up as classrooms, labs and offices.

Not only will renovation costs be relatively minor for the building considered to be in “great shape,” but the university would save “millions and millions of dollars” it would have to spend if it constructed a new building on the existing campus and had to erect an additional parking garage, Sturges said.

“I know they're really excited about it,” he said. “The chancellor, he doesn't mess around. He's looking to make things happen out there.”

Elsenbaumer completed his first year on the job last month. The Purdue graduate was hired to succeed Vicky Carwein and to shepherd the campus through the July 1 local split of Purdue and Indiana universities.

Plans call for designating the former Brown Mackie property the South Campus and making it accessible to Purdue Fort Wayne “via a planned shuttle service and potentially new bicycle and scooter services,” the chancellor wrote in the email.

The new Parker Cole Crossing pedestrian bridge, which spans Coliseum Boulevard, is expected to open in late spring, providing another means of access.

Brown Mackie College announced in June 2016 its plan to close the local operation in addition to four others statewide.

Parent company Education Management Corp. of Pittsburgh came under fire after numerous students complained that they'd racked up tens of thousands of dollars in student debt but were unable to find jobs because coursework didn't meet most employers' needs or prepare them to earn industry certifications.

The property's current owner is a California investor group, which leased space to Brown Mackie.