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Daniel Webster College property sold for $12m; SNHU acquires aviation portion

Union Leader Correspondent

October 23. 2017 7:53PM
Daniel Webster College campus, a 53-acre property in Nashua, fetched $12M at auction. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

NASHUA — Southern New Hampshire University is purchasing a portion of the former Daniel Webster College, and a second buyer still remains a mystery.

During Monday’s auction of the former college at 20 University Dr., SNHU was the only bidder on the school’s old flight center, tower building and hangar. Pending approval from a bankruptcy court on Wednesday, SNHU will acquire the aviation property for $410,000.

According to Mike Matlat of A&G Realty Partners LLC of New York, the listing agent for the former Daniel Webster College, Monday’s high bid for the remaining campus portion of the facility was $11.6 million — up from $6.7 million. That purchase must also be approved by a bankruptcy court on Wednesday, he said.

Matlat did not immediately disclose the name of the entity that purchased the larger portion of the property, although two city officials confirmed that it will be acquired by a Chinese college or university; they also did not know the name of the high bidder.

“Bidders do not have to indicate the intended use because they are buying it as is, where is. We believe it to be an education use of some kind,” explained Matlat.

Jim Smith, executive vice president of SNHU’s College of Engineering, Technology and Aeronautics, said Monday that the new SNHU property will be a big boost to the school’s growing aviation and engineering programs.

When Daniel Webster College closed earlier this year, SNHU took over the engineering and aeronautics curriculum.

“They had a rich tradition of flying,” Smith said of Daniel Webster College, previously known as the Nashua Aeronautical Institute.

Smith has been researching cost effective models of bringing the dream of flying back to middle class students, which is often out of reach for them, he said. By purchasing the aviation operations of the former Daniel Webster College, Smith said SNHU has developed a model that is not only cost effective, but will fit into a four-year curriculum to offer a bachelor of science degree in aviation science with a certification as a certified flight instructor.

One of the major benefits, according to Smith, is that the airfield in Nashua doesn’t have a lot of commercial traffic, which is ideal for student flying.

Air Direct Airways, a local flying school, already exists at the Nashua municipal airport. Smith said SNHU will work with the flying school to leverage an existing flying operation while bringing forward a new academic portion to the program.

“We are really excited,” he said. “We want to offer this as early as fall of next year.”

One year ago, ITT announced it was planning to shut down its campuses, however SNHU was granted permission from the U.S. Department of Education to initiate a ‘teach-out’ agreement that allowed students and staff to remain at Daniel Webster College until this past spring when it officially closed. Although SNHU made an initial offer to purchase the entire 53-acre Daniel Webster College property earlier this year, creditors did not find the offer satisfactory.

On Monday, SNHU opted just to bid on the aviation portion of the site, a risk that Smith said it was willing to take.

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