STU announces sale of Forest Hill property

    St. Thomas University announced the sale of its Forest Hill property to a development company on July 27.

    STU’s residence life made the announcement on its social media platforms.

    The announcement read, “St. Thomas University has sold our Forest Hill property (Chatham Hall and Rigby Hall) to a local company. Students set to live in Rigby this fall will not be affected, as STU has an agreement to lease back and continue to manage Rigby Hall for the next 3 years. This includes room placements, food services, security, etc. This sale is in response to excess housing capacity, and will help to improve the financial health of the University, ensuring strong residence programming moving forward.”

    Both Rigby and Chatham Hall were sold, but Rigby will continue to be rented by St. Thomas for the next three years. (Cassidy Chisholm/AQ)

    The university has not revealed the selling price, but according to the Service New Brunswick Property Assessment website the sale price was $4.3-million as of July 27.

    The sale became official on July 26. The property has been on the market for two years.

    A long time coming

    STU’s associate vice-president communications, Jeffrey Carleton, said declining enrolment and a shift in living patterns of students brought on the sale.

    “We had publicly announced in the spring of 2016 that we were going to look at options to improve the financial health for the university,” Carleton said. “And at that time, that was when we made the decision to terminate the men’s hockey team.”

    Carleton said less students are moving into residence.

    “You will tend to see first-year students and then less so, second-year students stay in residence and you’ll see them move in different options and moving off into apartments with friends,” he said.

    There were more than 200 residence rooms available in the Forest Hill buildings.

    “So with the change of living pattern, we had surplus capacity. We made the decision that we would slowly begin to migrate our residence students to the on-campus residences.”

    What it means for students

    Although the university sold the property, the purchaser agreed to offer a leaseback, meaning the school will continue to rent Rigby Hall including the residence, the cafeteria and the conference centre.

    “We had known since the spring that the sale was highly likely, so [when] we did the room assignments for Forest Hill, we assigned the students to Rigby as opposed to Chatham so there won’t be any change for students staying in Forest Hill this year,” Carleton said.

    STU will continue to rent Rigby Hall for at least the next three years.

    “We’re beginning to look at plans to renovate Vanier Hall. When that proceeds we’ll need to put those students somewhere and they’ll be able to live in Rigby Hall for the approximate year that it takes to renovate,” Carleton said.

    Carleton said the sale will benefit the “financial health” of the university by decreasing the school’s debt, balancing the residence system budget and creating options for the future when renovating on-campus residences.

    “This arrangement with Forest Hill, it’s advantageous to us, because we are able to take the proceeds from the sale and eliminate some debt,” Carleton said.

    After three to five years, Carleton said the university plans to stop renting Rigby Hall once renovations on Vanier Hall are finished.

    As of Sept. 8, the buyer has not come forward.