Large Christian University Campus in Quiet North Central Pasadena Residential Neighborhood Close to a Sale?

Principals say they are in ‘serious discussion’ with potential buyer; campus group hopes to halt sale

Published : Friday, February 2, 2018 | 6:10 AM

Most of a 17- acre, 1910-to-1930-era built North Central Pasadena Christian university campus, which has housed numerous teaching and mission organizations and educated thousands of missionaries since 1977, is being considered for sale, according to its owners.

Administrators of the joint owners of the property, William Carey International University (WCIU) and Frontier Ventures, are currently in discussions with potential buyers for their campus, according to a statement released Thursday.

The quiet campus lies just to the east of North Hill Avenue above Washington Boulevard, in the heart of a quiet residential neighborhood. It is bounded by East Elizabeth Street to the north, East Howard Street to the south, Wesley Avenue on the west, and North Oxford Avenue to the east.

“WCIU has been in Pasadena for as long as I can remember; the campus is a cornerstone of that neighborhood,” said Pasadena City Councilmember Margaret McAustin. “As such, I want to see a use which will be compatible with the existing zoning and the neighborhood,” adding, “I’m looking forward to meeting with the new owners when a transaction has closed.”

According to published reports, Frontier Ventures president Fran Patt and William Carey International University president Kevin Higgins have confirmed that they’ve been in talks with a potential buyer since December. According to Patt and Higgins, the sale would include roughly 15 acres of campus, a 2.5-acre soccer field near the Frontier Ventures office building, and a portion of surrounding property, which includes homes, dorm-style residences, and office space, which WCIU owns.

Meanwhile, as the property moves closer to being sold, a group of former students and staff of WCIU have launched an effort to stop the sale.

On their website, www.savethecampus.org, the group writes, “This Save The Campus Team has mobilized to use every means possible to stop this tragedy from happening. Once this campus is sold, it will be gone forever. In Pasadena, both real estate developers and the City of Pasadena itself are hungry for the increased revenue a sale like this could bring.”

Founded in 1977 by Ralph Winter as the U.S. Center for World Missions, the ministry has been at one time or another, home to more than 30 missions and nongovernmental organizations as well as countless missionaries.

If sold, Frontier Ventures and William Carey International University administrators said they intend to retain portions of the properties in Pasadena, while using proceeds from the sale to develop smaller hubs in other parts of the U.S. and overseas, according to the joint statement.

“Globalization and advances in technology make it possible for them to provide their resources closer to unreached parts, while rising business and living costs in Southern California restrict ongoing operations there,” the release said.

The partner ministries reportedly plan to maintain a “smaller footprint” in Pasadena, keeping the Frontier Ventures building known as Hudson Taylor Hall and half of the homes on the property. Patt and Higgins declined to discuss the estimated value of the property or the amount of the offer; however, a group of William Carey alumni and supporters who are against the sale claim that the price being discussed is approximately $55 million.

“Our focus has always been on other parts of the world, and globalization and changes in global missions models and in technology over the years have made it possible and advantageous for us to work nearer to some of those places,” said Dr. Kevin Higgins, president of WCIU.

“Operationally, we are looking to make a significant change through this process,” added Patt. “However, our founding mission and values remain unchanged. The world in which we work has changed, bringing new opportunities. We are simply trying to be the best stewards of the resources we have been given.”

Keith Mathias of RK Companies, brokers for the sale, confirmed that the Church is trying to find a faith-based buyer, but could not guarantee such a sale.

“I think that that’s a preference on their part because they have a faith based organization,” he told Pasadena Now Thursday. “We work with a lot of faith-based organizations across the country, and so we see an opportunity for that, but we’ve also had interest from other users and other organizations that are not faith-based, and I think that will be considered.”

Renamed Frontier Ventures in 2015, the former U.S. Center was established by the late Dr. Ralph Winter, a leading advocate of frontier mission. The organization has supported those efforts through research, collaboration, training and education. Formed in 1997, WCIU offers distance learning to equip cross-cultural workers. Students from 20 countries around the world have completed studies.

“The transition from a centralized, Pasadena-based operation to a decentralized model with small hubs around the world has been under consideration for several years,” said their announcement.

“We want to honor the legacy of our birth in Pasadena both by retaining something of a presence there and in ensuring that we choose the right people to whom to entrust the rest to,” said Patt.

As Higgins wrote on his blog in December, “I am excited to report that we have entered more serious discussion with a specific potential buyer who fulfills these criteria. At the time of this writing, this is still a non-binding relationship. Either we or they can end the discussion at any time without any risk. In this period, we are engaged in the details of what might be sold, what will be kept, and how we might work together in the future as well.”

The campus sits a property once known as the Hugus Ranch, wrote missionary John Lambert in a history of the campus, on an online church blog. The property was owned at the time by rancher John Hugus, who sold the land to the newly formed Nazarene denomination.

The property on East Howard Avenue was built in 1910 and came to be known as the Nazarene University, later to be known as Pasadena College.

In 1973, the Pasadena College was relocated to Point Loma in San Diego in 1973. The campus remained up for sale for the next three years, but despite numerous offers, sat unbought for three years.

Dr. Ralph D. Winter, a Pasadena native and former pioneer missionary to the Mam people of Guatemala, was teaching in Fuller seminary’s newly formed School of World Mission in 1974. Inspired by the idea of uniting missions and increasing Christian outreach, began raising funds through a small gift campaign where he encouraged people to give a $15.95 gift to help purchase the campus.

The “Save the Campus” group worries the property will be sold to secular interests.

“There is no guarantee that if this campus is sold that it will go to another Christian organization that will continue this vision,” the group worries on its website.

According to the website, the owners of WCIU are currently discussing the sale with “six or seven buyers.”

In addition, the site claims that the entire campus will be sold, not just the 15 acres, as reported.

“We know for an absolute fact from the real estate broker’s brochure and website,” the site claimed, “that the entire 17.5 acre campus plus 56 homes northeast of the campus are going to be sold! This represents far more than “a portion” of the campus. It is the entire campus plus one-third of the surrounding homes.”

The site also claims that the 56 homes to be sold are part of the University’s Micronesian community.

“That community has lived and worked on this campus for almost 40 years,” according to the site. Selling the campus will cause them to lose their jobs, their homes and their close-knit community.”

Meanwhile, as Higgins wrote in his December blog post, “There are still a number of challenges: we need to agree on all the exact details, and that will take time. Even once we get to that agreement, there will be significant time needed as the buyer would need to secure their funding.”

Higgins added, “While details are still being discussed, I can say at this stage that more than half of the houses as well as Hudson Taylor Hall are all not in the sale and will remain in the hands and use of WCIU and FV.”

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