Opportunity for Campus Growth in Arden Hills
August 16, 2013
I want to share with you an unexpected opportunity for Bethel to grow its campus in Arden Hills. As you know, space is tight. We have lived with a reality of tight quarters for the College of Arts & Sciences, College of Adult & Professional Studies, and Graduate School for a long time. We also need to replace our leased space at Red Fox because the CAPS/GS programs have grown, we have added the Physician Assistant program, and ideally we would like a location that is more visible than the Red Fox site.
Last winter Bethel began to explore the option to lease space in the Country Financial building located at 2 Pine Tree Drive in Arden Hills for CAPS/GS programming. We began to analyze this lease opportunity with the Cabinet, CAPS/GS leadership, and our Board of Trustees. As a result of those efforts, earlier this summer we went through a process with the City of Arden Hills to provide Bethel with the necessary zoning approvals to lease up to 26,000 square feet in the building.
Unexpected Opportunity to Purchase
Shortly after receiving this city approval, we were presented with an unexpected opportunity to purchase the building. Last year at this time we were still completing work on the Campus Master Plan. At that time I could not imagine that 12 months later an opportunity would present itself to buy a 200,000square-foot building with 40 acres of land located less than 2 miles from our main campus.
However, given the financial realities we faced at Bethel this spring and continue to face, we were confronted with a difficult decision about whether to pursue this opportunity. On one hand, we saw compelling reasons to move forward. The proximity of the Pine Tree building to our main campus, the layout of the building, and the campus-like property that surrounds the building make it attractive for additional space needs that were identified in the Campus Master Plan at a price substantially less than new construction. It also solved the issue that started this search – additional space in the north metro to accommodate CAPS/GS teaching facilities and the PA program. On the other hand, we wrestled with whether a purchase of this magnitude in the midst of financial challenges was a wise decision.
Ultimately, we determined that purchasing the building was the right decision and would be good stewardship. Both the prioritization process as well as the purchase of 2 Pine Tree are designed to make Bethel University strong long into the future. In addition, a small group of trustees is assisting us in developing a funding plan that will come from new donations and investments designated solely for this project. The purchase price will have no impact to our operating budget.
Current Stage in the Process
Late last month the owner and Bethel formalized acceptable terms and conditions for the purchase of the building. One of those conditions is securing the necessary city approvals to allow Bethel during the next 5 to 15 years to gradually expand our use of the building beyond the space we originally intended to lease. This includes a public process with the city that will begin soon. If this goes forward, as we expect it will, there will be time for conversations regarding how the building will be used. We believe that this ‘east’ campus opportunity will allow us to accelerate many of the hopes and priorities identified in the Campus Master Plan.
We are still in the early stages of this process and taking one step at a time. We ask for your prayers that God will continue to provide us with wisdom and provision.