Todd Ruger NULL

A Quad-City developer says he has purchased the Marycrest International University property, where he envisions a "senior campus" with a mixture of low-income, assisted-living and market-rate apartments for senior citizens.

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Chris Ales said his development company, Signature Holding Corp., purchased the college campus, which includes 10 buildings on more than 20 acres in west Davenport and has sat empty since August. The school's owner, Teikyo Yamanashi Education and Welfare Foundation, decided to shut it down earlier this year.The last students left in May, when the final graduation ceremonies were held, and just a handful of employees stayed through June to clean up property.Ales' firm took control of the property last week, but the actual closing on the sale will be Sept. 30, he said, when all of the paperwork on the title will be completed. He would not disclose the sale price, citing upcoming real estate transactions involving some of the buildings, but added that it was less than a rumored listing price of $6 million. The property never was listed with a real estate agency.Ales said he signed an agreement for his corporation to buy the property about a week ago. He started talking with Teikyo early in the spring and signed a letter of intent to purchase the campus in late July.Telephone calls from the Quad-City Times seeking comment on the sale from Teikyo representatives based in Colorado were not returned Thursday.Signature Holding representatives told Davenport officials, including City Administrator Craig Malin and aldermen Dan Vance and Ray Ambrose, of the purchase and proposed development during a campus walking tour Thursday morning. Malin and Vance said they support Ales' development plan."With that type of industry," Vance said, referring to senior citizen residences, "I think it actually helps the neighborhood, as opposed to some other businesses that could have come in. It would be a major contribution to the area."Plans for the campus buildings include:n The first phase of converting Upham Hall to 30 market-rate apartments by autumn 2003 for senior citizens who just miss qualifying for low-income housing.n  A second phase of converting and connecting two dormitories on the south side of the property into 50 low-income apartments for seniors by 2004 or 2005.n Restoring the Petersen Mansion and West Hall into a 20-apartment senior group home or nursing home.n Converting Petersen Hall into 50-60 assisted-living apartments with a cafeteria, which possibly could be made available to all campus residents.n Restoring Clifton Manor into short-term rental office space.No buildings will be razed or new ones constructed, and the trees and grassy areas between buildings will remain, Ales said, except that the road passing in front of Upham Hall will be looped to create a turnaround.Ales said senior housing will be in greater demand in the future."If you look at the demographics, there's just a huge need and we're right on the verge of more with the baby boomers aging," he added.Walsh residence hall, Cone Library, the Marycrest Activities Center and the nursing building — all on the east end of the campus — are not currently part of the development plan, he said.Instead, Ales said he will try to find tenants or buyers for those individual buildings, possibly a senior care organization in the library and a school or private gym to use the activities center.The project is similar to Signature Holding's current project at St. Katherine's Living Center in Davenport, where historical buildings have been restored and converted into 38 low-income senior citizen apartments during the past year. Rent for those apartments ranges from $243 for an efficiency to $412 for a two-bedroom unit.Besides both projects transforming former schools into apartments and making renovations that are required to be historically accurate, Ales said he will look to similar funding sources.He received more than $3 million from the Iowa Finance Authority, the Davenport Urban Revitalization program and federal and state historic tax credits for the St. Katherine's project.For the Marycrest development, Ales said he has been in discussions with the state finance authority and plans to apply for funding in November. Funding is awarded by the state in March, he said. "One out of four applicants get funds," he said, standing in one of the restored apartments at St. Katherine's, which will have an open house 1-3 p.m. Sept. 29. "We need to convince the authority that we've done a good job with their money here."Ales said his corporation has been in discussions with city zoning and economic development officials, and he also will seek a $300,000 low-interest loan from Davenport for converting the dormitories.He previously completed new construction projects in Moline, Silvis and Rock Falls, Ill.Japan-based Teikyo purchased Marycrest in 1990 from the Sisters of Humility. The sisters started the school in 1939 as an institution for Catholic women. Enrollment plunged when Teikyo came in, and the name of the school changed from Marycrest College to Teikyo Marycrest University to Marycrest International University.The school was placed on probation in 1994 because national college and university accrediting organizations had problems with the way the school was being governed. Marycrest was placed on probation again last fall for similar reasons.Marycrest's then-newly appointed president, former North Scott School District Superintendent Pat DeLuca, made the announcement in December that the board, made up of six members from Japan, three from Denver and one from Davenport, had decided to close the school after student enrollment projections fell. Marycrest is the second Iowa college to close after being purchased by Teikyo.

Todd Ruger can be contacted at (563) 383-2493 or truger@qctimes.com.