The president of the Andover-Newton Theological School says the school has finalized a partnership with the Yale Divinity School, and will be relocating to the New Haven campus starting in 2018.
Martin Copenhaver said students will spend just one more year on the Newton Centre campus, with the school looking for an alternative site in the Boston area for the following year before making the permanent move to New Haven.
The “school within a school” on the Yale campus will be known as “Andover Newton at Yale,” and will be significantly smaller than the current operation, with students also taking classes with Yale professors.
“We’re obviously sad to leave this campus, and having to downsize, but we’re really excited about the possibilities,” Copenhaver said in a recent interview.
The move is necessitated by financial woes at the school, which like other seminaries across the country has faced a steady decline in enrollment over the past decade.
Copenhaver said the school is negotiating to sell the hilltop campus off Herrick Road, but declined to give specifics, citing confidentiality agreements with potential buyers that prevent him from speaking until a sale is final.
He also declined to give an estimate of when a sale may become final, saying only that negotiations are ongoing, and that plans are for the 2016-2017 school year to be the last on the Newton Centre campus.
He did say, however, that the school is taking into consideration the concerns of neighbors and the city when evaluating its options to sell the property.
Specifically, he said, the school will consider concerns about density, traffic, and the preservation of open space in making a final decision on the sale.
“We’ve been in conversations with our neighbors, and we’re mindful of their concerns,” he said.
The approximately 50-acre property is expected to be sold as one parcel, and the city has not made a formal offer to purchase the land, according to James Freas, acting director of the city’s Planning and Development Department.
Freas said unless the property were to be purchased by another educational institution for the same purpose, any development at the site will likely need a special permit granted by the City Council after lengthy review by the Land Use Committee and city planners.
City Councilors Victoria Danberg and Richard Blazar, who represent Newton Centre, said they’d like to see some type of housing, including low-income units, at the property.
But, they caution, density will be a concern.
“What the neighbors would like to see continue, of course, is a small, self-contained school with very little traffic up and down the hill, but that’s obviously not going to happen,” said Danberg. “So I’d like to see some type of housing up there. It’s a spectacular location for some senior housing, which the city is in need of.”
Herrick Road, a two-lane, narrow neighborhood street that goes up a steep incline to the campus, is now the only access into the property from Beacon Street in Newton Centre, something that concerns the councilors.
“Senior housing would be a good fit for the neighborhood, but how many units would they want to stuff up there. Five hundred? That would be way too many,” Blazar said, concerned that traffic in and out of the development could ruin the Herrick Road neighborhood.
Freas echoed that concern, saying the one-way in and one-way out of the site would be an issue for high-density options.
The councilors said they hope the new owners will also consider maintaining some of the property as open space, or providing a community space that could be used for art, theater, or educational programs.
Copenhaver said the property’s assessed value of an estimated $43.3 million, according to the city assessor’s database, is “not the actual value,” indicating the final sale price will likely be lower.
Copenhaver said there are just 11 full-time faculty now working at the school, with just four expected to make the move to New Haven.
Several current professors will be retiring, he said, and some are choosing not to move their families to the new campus.
Adjunct and part-time professors will also not be making the move to New Haven.
“We will be starting small, and moving on from there,” Copenhaver said. “We’re ready to refocus, and rededicate ourselves. This is a way to stay relevant.”
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.