Nearly one year after acquisition, former Daniel Webster College campus remains a ghost townBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
September 16. 2018 7:43PM
NASHUA — It has been nearly a year since the former Daniel Webster College parcel was acquired, yet the property still remains quiet and overgrown, with city officials now urging the owner to provide basic maintenance to the campus.
Last October, an undisclosed Chinese university was the top bidder at a bankruptcy auction for the property in Nashua. Sui Liu, who is associated with the university, paid $11.6 million for the site.
“What I know is limited. I wouldn’t term it a mystery, but I am reserved in watching this unfold because it has been slow moving,” said Tim Cummings, economic development director for the city.
According to Cummings, Liu is a high net-worth individual from China hoping to open a higher education institution in the United States. Liu has purchased not only the Nashua parcel, but other sites throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. It is still not clear whether the university already exists in China and is expanding into America, or whether this is a new venture for Liu.
“My understanding is there is a lot of difficulty at this time for the money and capital necessary to make this project work,” said Cummings.
Although there have been no problems at the vacant campus throughout the past year, officials have reached out to Liu’s Virginia-based attorney asking the new owner to keep the property maintained, according to Sarah Marchant, community development director in Nashua.
“We have been trying to get them to do basic maintenance,” she said, adding city leaders want to ensure that no rodent problems arise, the grass gets cut and the buildings are secure.
“We are working to make sure that at least that part is taken care of,” said Marchant.
Cummings agreed, saying he does not want to see the 53-acre site next to the Nashua Airport become a blight on the neighborhood.
On Friday, there were orange barriers blocking the entrance to the campus, with signs warning trespassers to leave. The grass on the property is still overgrown.
“There is a presence on site and they have committed to making sure the campus is secured,” said Cummings, who is still hoping for life to return to the site.
The process has been delayed, however, in part because a foreign entity outside the United States may have met some roadblocks.
“I have a very reserved view as to whether it is going to occur because of all the various issues to date,” Cummings acknowledged.
Approval process tabled
According to New Hampshire Department of Education public documents, the former president of Daniel Webster College, Michael Diffily, is now working as a consultant with the Registry for College and University Presidents and has been helping the new owner with the process.
Liu had his attorney attempt to register the Daniel Webster College or Daniel Webster University trade name with the New Hampshire Secretary of State earlier this year, however the request was rejected and nothing has been submitted since.
“The process of approval for the school remains tabled by the higher education board. The Xinhua Education Consulting Corp. has not filed any applications or plans to the New Hampshire Department of Education to open a college there,” Anthony Schinella, director of communications with the agency, said on Friday.
Cummings stressed that the parcel on University Drive is now actively being monitored.
The buyer’s attorney, David Lu of Vienna, Va., said earlier that his client intends to restore the college and reopen it as soon as soon as possible, but would not provide any additional details. Liu, the new owner, has remained silent about the venture.
Lu and Liu founded Xinhua Education Consulting Corp. in New Hampshire, which is affiliated with Xinhua Education Investment Corp. — a group that purchased the former Saint Paul’s College in Richmond, Va., in the fall of 2017.
If the Chinese group is able to open a campus here in Nashua, it will be the second Chinese school to open in New Hampshire in recent years.
Last year, Busche Academy in Chester was approved by the New Hampshire State Board of Education and officially recognized as a non-public school in the Granite State.
Aside from the undisclosed Chinese university’s acquisition of the former DWC site, Judge James Carr of the Indiana Southern Bankruptcy Court previously approved Southern New Hampshire University’s $410,000 acquisition of the aviation structures housed at the former DWC property, including its flight center, hangar and tower.
Air Direct Airways Flight Academy, which operates at the Nashua Airport on Perimeter Road, has since partnered with Southern New Hampshire University to create a new program for the school’s growing aviation and engineering divisions in which young people who may not typically be able to afford to fly can still get their wings and pursue careers in aeronautics.