Dear Friends of Welch College,
I am thrilled to report that the college has closed on the sale of its West End Avenue campus and is set to begin construction on its new campus site!
The campus was purchased by Mike Ford Custom Builders, LLC, a custom home building company in Middle Tennessee that is well-known for its fine homes in neighborhoods such as Westhaven, Windstone, and LaurelBrooke in nearby Franklin and Brentwood. That firm plans to construct multi-family units on the four contiguous lots on West End Avenue and single-family homes on Richland Avenue. Davidson Hall, the college’s first building, will be restored and sold as a single-family home.
CEO Mike Ford said, “We are so excited about this project. We are very thankful to be able to play the major role in adding 50 wonderful homes to this community. It’s already been very rewarding to meet and work with folks at Welch College. We couldn’t be happier that we have been able to help the college realize its dream of a new campus. I’d just like to thank everyone involved.”
The sale included all the campus property except Welch Library. We believe that the buzz of new construction in the neighborhood will increase the price of that home, one of the most important historic homes in Nashville.
This transaction is even better than the offer the college had from Aquinas College two years ago. We are grateful for that, because construction costs have risen since that time. Furthermore, we are increasing the square footage of our residence halls because of the 30 percent growth in dorm enrollment Welch experienced over the past two years. We are grateful to our development consultant, Dudley Smith of Land Innovations, and his team, as well as our realtors, Rick French and Ellen Christianson, for their invaluable help in making this sale a reality.
The new campus will be built on a 66-acre site in Gallatin, Tennessee, which the college acquired for $3 million in 2008, and which was recently appraised at $5.8 million. This property, a short 25-minute drive from downtown Nashville, is situated in a fast-growing suburban community in Sumner County.
The site meets all the criteria the college set at the beginning of its land search. Much like the current campus, the new property is close to a limited access freeway, being less than a mile off State Route 386 (Vietnam Veterans Boulevard). It is near medical and educational resources and job opportunities for students, is surrounded by new housing developments, and is still in the Greater Nashville area.
Summer County is experiencing rapid economic and population growth. An array of restaurants, shops, and malls are opening in retail developments such as the Streets of Indian Lake, located a few minutes from the campus. Healthcare facilities and housing developments are also being built at an impressive rate.
Bob Bass, campus relocation consultant, said, “The location of the new campus site is excellent. Within a few minutes of the campus are both affordable homes for faculty and staff, as well as Fairvue Plantation and Foxland, high-end housing developments that provide job opportunities similar to what the college’s current Belle Meade surroundings have offered Welch students for decades.”
Sumner County’s vibrant economy, along with its inviting small-city atmosphere, means that the college will have the benefits of the larger Nashville community as well as the charm and convenience of the Gallatin and Hendersonville communities.
Colonel Mark Johnson, chairman of the Relocation Task Force, who spearheaded the property search, said, “We looked at over 100 potential sites before deciding on this beautiful land in Sumner County. Gallatin city officials, as well as business and educational leaders, have warmly welcomed us to the community. We’re now ready to take the next step.”
Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown said, “Gallatin is delighted to welcome Welch College to our community. We are honored that this highly respected institution has chosen to relocate its campus in Gallatin. We look forward to the day that Welch opens its doors and welcomes students to its new campus. Welch College has demonstrated its commitment to exceedingly high standards and that commitment to excellence is a perfect fit for the City of Gallatin.”
The Gallatin property is more than seven times the size of the West End Avenue campus. This means the college will not have to cap enrollment or curtail new academic programs planned for the future. There is room to construct buildings for instructional needs and student housing adequate for the present and far into the future.
The new campus will have a traditional, residential college campus feel. The campus quadrangle and buildings will feature classic, Jeffersonian campus architecture with fresh, new, and technologically up-to-date interiors. The larger campus site will have much more green space than the old campus. It will permit the construction of outdoor sports facilities for students and provide adequate parking for students, faculty, staff, and guests.
The college has secured the services of Focus Design Builders, a Wake Forest, NC-based firm, to construct the campus. They are working with Raleigh, NC-based Design Development Architects, who are providing architectural and engineering services, and Brentwood, TN-based Southland Constructors, who will handle construction management for the new campus. The goal for completion of construction and opening of school on the new campus is September 2016, January 2017 at the latest.
We are thankful to God for bringing to fruition the vision of a new campus that was initiated by president emeritus Dr. Tom Malone and his team more than two decades ago. A number of steadfast supporters of this vision have been supporting it financially over the past several years. This has enabled the college to pay down debt on the new campus site as well as engage in planning and design for the campus.
Our capital campaign to raise needed funds for campus construction is entitled Building on the Legacy. In a silent phase to the Building on the Legacycampaign, we have already raised $2.1 million in pledges ($1.6 million of which has already been received). We need to raise an additional $5.4 million in cash and gifts-in-kind ($3.4 million in five-year pledges and $2 million in gifts-in-kind of materials, labor, fixtures, etc.).
These funds, together with those raised from the sale of the West End campus and cash reserves, will pay for the $20 million-plus construction of the new campus. We are calling on friends of the college to invest in this campaign, which will be a once-in-a-lifetime investment in the kingdom mission of Welch College.
We will be unveiling more about the new campus and the Building on the Legacy campaign at the annual meeting of the National Association of Free Will Baptists in Grand Rapids, MI, next month. We also invite everyone to a groundbreaking ceremony on the new campus site, which we will host Tuesday, July 14, at 10:00 a.m. Details about campus relocation can be found at Buildingonthelegacy.org.
Please be in prayer for Welch College as we embark on the most important transition in the history of our beloved institution. Pray that God will provide the needed funds for this endeavor, and pray about your involvement in this historic event of the relocation and construction of a new campus for Welch College, for the glory of God and the extension of His kingdom.
J. Matthew Pinson