By Chris Moon
Manhattan Christian College is about to close on the purchase of a $4 million retail center that will provide additional student housing and a new revenue stream.
It also is a chance to buy back a parcel of land the school sold 36 years ago, giving MCC ownership of almost two full city blocks in Manhattan, Kan.
“It will be a great opportunity for us,” said MCC president Kevin Ingram.
Until 1985, the college owned the land where the current Anderson Village now stands. The 36,000-square-foot building houses retail establishments on its first floor and 24 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on its second floor.
The 2.25 acres of land originally was sold to help MCC pay off some debts. The college now is buying it back—with the retail and apartment building—to give its male students a new place to live.
“A year from now, it will replace Johnson Hall,” Ingram said.
Johnson Hall is the men’s residence hall at MCC. It was built in 1964 and has taken on a lot of wear and tear through the years.
Upgrading the building would be expensive. MCC got an estimate for a new residence hall several years ago—before building costs increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic—that came in at about $4.5 million, Ingram said.
To purchase Anderson Village at $4 million means getting a facility that immediately can house up to 64 students.
The current retail tenants also are a good fit for a college residence hall—a Christian coffee shop, a hair salon, a pro-life ministry, a Christian counseling group, and a laundromat.
“It is space that is very student-focused,” Ingram said.
The deal is set to close in mid-July.
Ingram said MCC already has raised $1.1 million toward the purchase. The deal is being financed by Florida-based Christian Financial Resources.
MCC’s enrollment in the fall of 2020 was 179, down only six students from the previous fall despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At present, MCC has three revenue streams—student tuition, donations, and its endowment. With the purchase of Anderson Village, it will add a fourth—retail rental income.
Once the college’s loan for the purchase is paid off, the rental income from the first-floor retail space will help fund the college.
It may seem unusual for a small, private Christian college to gain revenue through commercial real estate leases, but Ingram said such moves may become more common in the higher education world.
Ingram said all of higher education had been facing revenue challenges even before COVID-19. In many cases, declining enrollments have been a chief culprit.
Federal assistance programs during the pandemic helped “put a pause on some of the challenges that higher education had,” Ingram said. But once that funding dries up—and if enrollment doesn’t come back up—colleges will once again see difficulties.
“I believe we’re going to have to be more creative,” Ingram said.
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.