The College of St. Joseph campus will be rebuilt as a 175-unit assisted living facility, developers announced Wednesday.
The Florida-based Heartland Communities of America has entered a purchase and sale agreement with Heritage Family Credit Union to buy most of the campus — the city intends to buy a portion if a bond vote passes in November — for an undisclosed sum.
Stuart Mills, the group’s managing partner, said they expect to spend roughly $50 million for construction on the campus, and the facility will bring 80 full-time jobs with it.
The college closed last year after losing its accreditation. Trustees pursued a plan to turn the campus into an “innovation center,” but that plan never came together and the trustees surrendered the campus to their mortgage-holder, Heritage Family Credit Union, in February. Heritage CEO Matt Levandowski said the talks with Heartland began before Heritage took possession.
“This was another avenue (CSJ President Dr. Jennifer Scott) had made contacts with,” Levandowski said. “Once I met the owners, we hit it off. ... I liked these people and what they were trying to accomplish in their mission.”
Levandowski said he spoke with a couple of other prospective buyers, but nothing ever came together.
“Since we’ve had the purchase and sale, we’ve had numerous calls from other people I’ve turned away,” he said. “We’ve had this purchase and sale in place for several months, but haven’t gone public.”
Mills said Heartland develops Catholic-sponsored faith care communities, so he liked the idea of redeveloping the campus of a Catholic college. He said he would be working in partnership with the Diocese of Vermont and local churches. He said the facility would include independent living, assisted living and memory care services.
He said he hopes to unveil the full plan in the next 60 days or so and begin construction in June.
“Most, I would guess, is 80% to 90% brand-new,” he said of he construction plans. “There will be a fair amount of demolition going on. ... We’re retaining the library building, but demolishing about half of it. ... We’re taking one of the dormitory buildings and completely remodeling it. We’re going to connect the St. Joseph’s Hall building to the dormitory on the left side, looking at campus, and then swing around and connect to Tuttle Hall.”
Tuttle Hall already has been leased to the Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region for a call center, administrative offices and training facility — pending renovations there.
“We love the idea of having it there with us,” Mills said.
Meanwhile, the city has its tentative purchase and sale for the gym facility as well as a portion of the parking lot and associated land. The city started leasing the gym as a recreation facility late last year, and it was heavily trafficked prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor David Allaire said he was excited by the announcement and that he thought Heartland had put together a good plan.
“I think it could become a great hub of activity when you put together the proposal with the CSJ gym,” he said. “I think we could turn it from a real negative when the college closed to a real positive for the city.”
Mills said he was not expecting any hang-ups with Act 250.
“I’m a developer from New Jersey,” he said. “We know what hang-ups are.”