By SHERIDAN ROY
A public auction was held at the former Lincoln College of New England campus, 2279 Mount Vernon Road, Southington on Aug. 16. A high bid of $4 million was presented by a bidder, and the owners of the property will have until Aug. 30 to decide whether to accept the bid.
The property includes 32.75 acres of land and consists of 113,000 square feet in seven buildings including administrative offices, classrooms, a laboratory, dormitories, a recreational center, a maintenance building and a security station. The facility is also equipped with athletic facilities including basketball courts, sand volleyball and a baseball/soccer/football field.
The property is currently leased through January 2020 by Lincoln College of New England and has been maintained by maintenance workers since Lincoln College’s closure last winter.
“The potential for this property is limited only by your imagination,” said Williams & Williams lead auctioneer Monte Lowderman. “A property like this isn’t offered every day. Consider what it would take to duplicate what you have here today — 32 acres and all of the buildings — if you started from scratch, what would it cost you?”
Lowderman said the property has been “very well maintained” and could be moved into that same day. The owners of the property were asking for an opening bid of $5 million. Anything below $5 million would be according to seller’s acceptance.
The property was built in 1964 as Briarwood College for Women, and later went through a rebranding and became a co-ed school. Ten years ago, it was sold to Lincoln College of New England. The campus was accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for over 35 years.
In July of 2018, Lincoln College was put on probation by NEASC after being found below the commission’s standards on: planning and evaluation, organization of governance, the academic program, students, teaching, learning and scholarship, institutional resources, and educational effectiveness. Ultimately, Lincoln College announced closure in August, completed its fall 2018 semester, and shut down by the end of December.
Briarwood Realty Inc., owner of the property, had reached out to NEASC last year in hopes of buying the school back and “rescuing it,” said Briarwood Realty Inc. President Dennis Terwilliger.
“We had been accredited by the NEASC for over 35 years as Briarwood College,” said Terwilliger. “At the end of the day, they said no because we had been out of the school business as landlords for 10 years, and that was a real shame.”
Owners of the property remain hopeful but know that there are challenges with selling a campus property that has been out of operation for some time.
“It’s a hard sell. We have a lot of people interested in acquiring successful schools, but when it’s just the property itself, it makes it difficult,” said Terwilliger. “One of the things that makes it difficult is the government requires a new school to be in operation for at least two years before they can give federal money to student loans. Plus, many programs require that you get ready to graduate your first graduates before they’ll accredit your program.”
Terwilliger said the property is in a residential zone and has a special permit to operate as a school. The property could be sold to another school, or a corporate training center.
Other possible options that would require approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission include a residential drug and alcohol treatment center, a mega-church, apartments, office buildings, or even be picked up by the nearby theme park, Lake Compounce.
“It’s a beautiful campus, and was built to last,” said Terwilliger. “Everything is first-class.”
To comment, email Sheridan Roy at SRoy@ SouthingtonObserver.com.