Long a place for the young, the Brookline campus of Newbury College will now become a place for the old.
The now-closed college has sold its 10-acre campus on Fisher Hill, near Route 9, to Welltower, a firm that invests in senior housing and assisted-living developments, for $34 million, according to deeds filed in Norfolk County. It’s one of the final steps in the winding down of the liberal arts college, which closed at the end of classes this spring.
Newbury is the latest in a string of small colleges to shutter in Greater Boston amid mounting financial pressures and declining enrollment. But, like nearby Mount Ida College in Newton, it was sitting on valuable real estate. Tucked in a neighborhood of million-dollar-plus homes near Cleveland Circle, Newbury’s campus sparked interest from a wide range of potential buyers, but also faced potential limitations on what could be built there.
“It was very, very competitive,” said Chris Sower, a senior vice president at real estate firm Colliers, who brokered the sale for Newbury. “At the end, it came down to a couple of different potential uses.”
The bidding was won by Welltower, a publicly traded real estate investment firm that partners with developers of senior housing, rehab facilities, and outpatient medical offices. Its precise plans for the site were not immediately known; Welltower did not respond to messages seeking comment. But Welltower executives have told town officials they plan senior facilities for part of the campus, said Bernard Greene, chairman of Brookline’s Board of Selectmen.
Welltower has offered to sell the other part — a parking lot and classroom building on the west side of Fisher Avenue — to the town, Greene said. Brookline has hired architects to study its potential re-use as either a school or administrative or recreational facilities for the town, Greene said, and will negotiate a price once the architects have a plan. A community meeting is scheduled for later this month.
Either way, Greene said, town officials were glad the campus wound up in the hands of an established company.
“I think it’s a great outcome,” Greene said. “They’re a first-class buyer. The management we’ve met with seem like straight shooters and serious. They’re people we can work with.”
And the deal effectively closes the books on Newbury, a small liberal arts school that served a largely low-income population of some 600 students, many of whom were the first in their families to attend college.
In recent years, tuition had risen to about $34,000, and enrollment had fallen by approximately one-quarter in the last five years. In December, the school said it would close at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
Proceeds from the sale — which was reviewed by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office — will more than cover Newbury’s existing debt. Financial statements from 2017 indicate the school owed $5.1 million in outstanding bonds and $2.3 million on a line of credit with its bank.
The proceeds will also fund a severance package for faculty and staff, Newbury vice president and chief of staff Paul Martin said in a statement, though details were not available. The school’s remaining assets, Martin said, “will be distributed to another Massachusetts college or university” in a process that will also need Healey’s review.
Many of Newbury’s students have transferred to other local schools. More than 100 graduated in May in a final commencement ceremony. The school is still working with a handful who plan to finish their degrees this December, Martin said.