The board of trustees of College of St. Joseph have deeded land and buildings of its campus to Heritage Family Credit Union. In addition, one of the organizers of a proposed innovation center, which would have returned the campus to active use, is now saying the project is unlikely to move forward.
There is optimism, however, that an agreement allowing the city to use the college’s gymnasium will continue.
Jay Kenlan, chairman of the board of trustees, said he believes it is “rather remarkable that CSJ was able to tough it out for this long.”
“But unfortunately, within the past couple of months, the process was slow enough that Heritage Family Credit Union felt that it had to move forward with its foreclosure,” he said.
Jennifer Scott, CSJ’s president before the college shut down operations, stayed on as a board member. Kenlan said she “did a phenomenal job of trying to keep the college alive and keep its mission intact as far as it could.”
Kenlan said “unfortunately, we were out of resources. The other players were not quite organized enough to move it forward and we felt it was just time to face the inevitable and turn the college back over to Heritage.”
Kenlan said Heritage held the mortgage on the property for quite some time, adding that the credit union had been “very supportive” of CSJ and worked with college officials as they tried to make deals.
Scott said she signed the papers deeding the college’s grounds and buildings back to Heritage last week.
“In January, Heritage Family Credit Union filed a foreclosure notice against the college, and the board’s position is that deeding the property — the whole property, so personal and real property — to the credit union in lieu of foreclosure is the best course of action at this juncture in order to preserve the efforts that have been made thus far in creating the vision that came out of the feasibility study for the campus space,” she said.
Matt Levandowski, president and CEO of Heritage, said the credit union wanted to work with organizations to “help re-invent the campus.”
“We have some preliminary conversations being had. Obviously the city is interested in the gym and they’re down there now. There’s a lot of great usage of the facility down there. We would love to work with the city, carve off that piece and have (Rutland City) retain ownership of the gym and the associated ballfields,” he said.
Levandowski said there were others interested, however, he could not identify them publicly.
According to Levandowski, Heritage is looking for an owner for the property; it does not want to be a landlord.
“Our fiduciary responsibility is to maximize the potential of the campus and make sure we can get our money back on our investments. We’re going to be working with anybody we can to make sure we can sell off the campus rather than be a landlord. We would rather not be a landlord and lease it out long term to anyone. We would rather sell off that parcel,” he said.
Rutland Mayor David Allaire said he was optimistic the transfer of the deed could be good for the city.
“We are going to be able to continue to have discussions about extending the lease down there. It’s been a tremendous success with the athletic facility. We have hundreds of people that have signed up to be members. The numbers are close to 75 to 100 people going through the doors every day. … We really see that as an asset going forward,” he said.
Allaire said he expected city officials would meet with Heritage executives soon to discuss extending the lease — or possibly buying — the gym.
After about 60 years as a college, CSJ closed as a degree-granting institution at the end of the 2018-19 school year. A feasibility study was conducted, however, with no resources to pay for staff or activities, the school’s board was forced to lay off all remaining employees.
“As a result of the time between October and now, we have brought the college as far as we can bring the college. It’s up to the other parties involved to carry the vision forward, and we have every reason to believe they will be successful in doing so,” Scott said.