McClelland for sale?

Multiple buildings at Northern Vermont University are up for sale or lease, including McClelland Hall and Senators South on the NVU-Johnson campus.
In a Nov. 4 interview, NVU Dean of Administration Toby Stewart said that there is outside interest in the buildings, but it’s unlikely there will be any movement in the next few months.
“Who knows,” Stewart said of when a sale or lease might occur and when the departments housed in McClelland might have to move out. “These sorts of things can drag on. It’s nothing imminent. I don’t see anything happening here as we roll into the spring semester.”
NVU President Elaine Collins said in an interview on Oct. 27 that “all options are open” for McClelland Hall. She said that they were not sure whether it would be sold, leased, or none of the above.
The purpose of leasing or selling the buildings is to reduce costs for the University and potentially bring in businesses who are interested in partnering with the school, Stewart said. There is extra room in the upper campus, he said, so the programming currently housed in McClelland could move up the hill, filling the rest of the school’s space closer to capacity.
The idea of unloading the properties came from a white paper that the Vermont State Colleges System Chancellor’s office produced in the summer of 2019, according to Stewart.
That study, he said, found that there was excess space within the VSCS that was incurring costs.
So, according to Stewart, the colleges surveyed its properties to find out what might be extraneous and found that McClelland and Senators South fit the bill.
Another benefit of selling or leasing the buildings, Stewart said, is the promise of putting outside partners who would like to collaborate with the University in the buildings.
The NVU Strong Advisory Committee, in a report last spring, recommended creating a “Learning and Working Community” model, in which some business or non-profit partners could be located on campus to reduce costs associated with infrastructure and provide work experience for students, among other things.
“The benefit to the students,” Stewart said, is “providing a vision and a bridge to what is after college.”
A big portion of the Learning and Working Community concept, is internships, Stewart said. “As I’m understanding this, this really kind of takes internships, maybe, to a different level.”
He said that the partner businesses could look to NVU as a source of future employees and would give NVU more insight into the needs of employers. “It’s a super exciting thing to get going.”
According to Stewart, about 25 businesses are interested in being part of this beefed-up community partnerships program. He said that through the discussion about the Learning and Working Community, potential partners interested in being housed on campus started reaching out to the university.
He said that there is a chance of selling to someone who would not be affiliated with the school, but that it would not be the first choice. Stewart declined to say who was looking at the buildings at this point.
Stewart noted that McClelland might be appealing to an outside group because it is on the outskirts of campus and close to downtown, while Senators South has excess capacity and is close to a parking lot.
Professor of Education Hannah Miller, whose program is housed in McClelland, said that leaving the building would take substantial planning, noting the building houses the Education and Behavioral Sciences departments, comprised of 11 faculty and staff; a maker space with a significant number of tools in it; the College Steps program; a dance studio; a couple of conference rooms; and classrooms that, in normal times, “are booked.”
There haven’t been any classes in McClelland this semester due to concerns over COVID-19 and the limitations of the 1940’s era structure.
“I think that we have to think about how we are going to get all of the work we do down in McClelland up the hill. And unfortunately, it doesn’t just mean sticking everyone in an empty office, because it is really nice for us to be able to work close to each other,” Miller said. “It’s going to take some restructuring of the way we organize things up the hill as well if it’s going to be a thoughtful process that’s supportive of that transition.”
“I also have a feeling students will like not having to walk down there for class,” Miller said. “They’ve never liked that.”
McClelland and Senators South are both maintained by NVU, but Stewart said it would take a decision by the VSCS Board of Trustees to sell or lease them.