NASHUA — As the saga of the former Daniel Webster College property continues, Mayor Jim Donchess says the owners of the land thought they were purchasing an operating college.
“My understanding is they thought they were buying an operating college, but they are not because it is not open and they, as owners, have not been accredited, which is an involved process,” Donchess said during a recent town hall meeting in Ward 2. “All they bought was real estate, not an operating college. It is said that they did not quite understand that.”
Daniel Webster College officially closed in May 2017, and it has been nearly two years since the former college parcel was acquired, yet the property still remains quiet and vacant.
In the fall of 2017, an undisclosed Chinese university was the top bidder at a bankruptcy auction for the majority of the 53-acre property in Nashua. Sui Liu, who is associated with the university, paid $11.6 million for the site.
“They don’t really communicate with the city. We try to reach them, we get nothing,” the mayor said.
Liu and his Virginia-based attorney have not returned repeated phone calls for comment.
“The main part of the campus is owned by this institution that just doesn’t respond,” Donchess said. “I don’t know what they are going to do … they won’t talk to the city at all.”
According to him, the $600,000 in annual property taxes for the site has been paid.
A representative for the new owner has been in touch with Lucille Jordan, the president of Nashua Community College, said Donchess, adding those discussions have not led to anything substantial. Jordan was told that the new owners thought they were buying something else, said the mayor.
“We would really like to have a college there, or something that would contribute to the community,” he added.
The city was hoping that if Daniel Webster College could not return, that Southern New Hampshire University would buy the property and operate it as a college, according to Donchess; SNHU did ultimately purchase a small portion of the campus.
Aside from the undisclosed Chinese university’s acquisition of the former DWC site, Judge James Carr of the Indiana Southern Bankruptcy Court previously approved SNHU’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 SNHU to create a new program for the school’s growing aviation and engineering divisions.
Liu had his attorney attempt to register the Daniel Webster College or Daniel Webster University trade name with the New Hampshire Secretary of State last year; however the request was rejected.
The buyer’s attorney, David Lu of Vienna, Va., said previously that his client intends to restore the college and reopen it as soon as possible, but would not provide any additional details.
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 St. 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.
Two years ago, 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.