By Robert Stitt
Howard University in Washington, D.C. is one of the best known Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The school says they are financially strapped and looking for creative ways to pay their bills.
A month ago, they decided to sell the rights to the airwaves broadcast off of the Howard University WHUT-TV tower to the FCC. Now, they have decided to lease some of their building space to a luxury rental company. In preparation for this move, the university transferred 650 students from their dorm and relocated them. The dorm, Meridian High Hill, is an eight-story structure that dates to 1942. The Washington Post lists it as “the site of the first government-owned hotel built to house women who moved to the District during World War II to fill government jobs. It sits across from embassies on a tree-lined street, next to the eponymous park, also known as Malcolm X Park.”
The building will be demolished and turned “200 new rental housing units with panoramic views of the park and downtown Washington.” Sixteen of the apartments will be set aside for middle-income families.
Howard University will still own the land; they are only leasing it for 99 years. In return for the lease they will receive $22 million up-front. The company that won the bid is Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. Jair K. Lynch, president and chief executive of the development company, had this to say, “As a son of a Howard graduate, we take great pride in redeveloping this great asset and re-imagining it for the future. We are very excited to utilize our team’s diverse skill sets to re-craft this historic structure into a modern apartment community.”
The new university president made it clear when he took over that the university’s real estate holdings should be used to fund the university. “We want to put our real estate into productive use, but we’re not signaling to the market that we are selling,” he said. The Post notes that their portfolio is worth over $1.5 billion with properties in some of the city’s hottest areas.
The president’s leases and sales are not popular with all of the faculty, but he did have enough support on the board to move ahead with the FCC deal and the land lease.