What options were considered for saving the building?
The administration conducted an exhaustive review of alternatives over the past 18 months. Just since June 2020, at least five engineering firms or developers have looked at the building and estimated what it would take to restore it. We explored gutting the interior to create student-only housing, and mixed-use housing within the shell. We explored working with an outside developer experienced in restoring historic buildings, developers experienced in affordable community housing, and undertaking the project ourselves.
Each option had significant, long-term financial impacts, including increased housing costs for students, increased debt and debt service, and increased operating expenses. Those financial impacts would be borne ultimately by both students and colleagues.
We explored renovating the Administration Building for student housing, and found it would have been the most expensive housing option on campus. Most of our students are already hard pressed to pay for on-campus housing, and we believe few would be able or willing to pay the higher price. We are mindful of the sacrifices that they and their families make to attend college.
We found that, if a developer renovated the building for another purpose, revenue from operating the building would go to the developer. If we had pursued tax credits, the credits would have gone to the project’s donors and investors, not Manchester. We still would be responsible for managing and populating the building. In other words, someone else would get the financial benefits, but the University would still have significant physical and financial responsibility for the building.
We also explored other alternatives such as government grants, but those programs typically come with significant use restrictions and are too small to represent much savings for Manchester.