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Future of Saint Paul’s is sealed / April 02, 2014
An April 9 property auction could mark a new beginning for Saint Paul’s College, the Historically Black College (HBCU) in Lawrenceville that closed at the end of the 2013 academic year and now is on the block to the highest bidder.

At 3 p.m. April 9, the Richmond-based realty firm of Sperry Van Ness/Motley’s will open the sealed bids that it receives for the college campus and adjoining 434 woodland acres.

Ideally, Saint Paul’s President Millard “Pete” Stith and members of the college board want to see the property reopened as an academic institution, but they are willing to consider all reasonable offers.

“I’m told there is a minimum bid set, but I don’t know what that is, and don’t want to know,” said Stith. He said the final decision on whether to accept any bid or reject all bids rests with the Saint Paul’s board of trustees.

Patrice Carroll, the agent handling the sale, says there’s been a fair amount of interest in the campus, and in particular the history behind the school. She expects any serious bid to be thought out and organized. “This is more than just a real estate sale,” she said.

To emphasize the point, Carroll likes to tell about the role Saint Paul’s College once played in reaching out to students who might not otherwise go to college.

She also commends the town of Lawrenceville for its assistance providing records and other information as Carroll and her firm have readied the property for the upcoming sale.

Sperry Van Ness/Motley’s has divided the auction sale into four separate offerings. One is the main campus, including 35 buildings and 137 acres. Also included is the Saul Building, built in the mid-1880s to house the parochial school founded by Episcopal Deacon James Solomon Russell. The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is named for the benefactor who funded its construction, Reverend James Saul of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Offering number two is the separate sale of the 23,000 square foot student center and the five-acre site on which it sits. Carroll said if this building, which houses a bowling alley, fitness facility, hair salon and atrium, is sold separately, she envisions it as a recreation or training center.

Offering number three is for the sale of 434 acres with its two ponds adjoining the campus, and offering number four is for the sale of the entire package, offerings 1-3. Selling the acreage apart from the campus, Carroll said, could help subsidize a new school on the Saint Paul’s campus.

If the campus is purchased by an historically black college or university or reopened as an HBCU, Carroll says there are funds available from the federal government for maintenance and upgrades of the facilities. These monies, known as Title III funds, are offered to institutions of higher education to “improve and strengthen the academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability of eligible institutions,” according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

Saint Paul’s College closed at the end of the 2013 academic year, mired in more than $7 million in debt.

The bid opening, will not be open to the public. After the bids are reviewed by Carroll and members of the Shaheen Law Firm of Richmond, they will be presented to Saint Paul’s Board of Trustees on April 10.

“It’s our practice [referring to Carroll’s firm] to release minimal information until the property closes. We like to protect the integrity of our clients as they go through negotiations,” said Carroll.

Founded in 1888 and affiliated with the Episcopal Church, Saint Paul’s College was a private, historically black, four-year coeducational and culturally diverse liberal arts institution of higher learning until a loss of accreditation forced its closure in June 2013. A last-minute effort to affiliate with St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., fell through.

The campus, which has been maintained under the guidance of Stith and a small staff, sits on 137 rolling acres in Brunswick County in the town of Lawrenceville. Before closing, the school offered baccalaureate degrees in the arts and sciences, teacher education endorsements, professional and pre-professional programs, and the only Single Parent Support System program for degree-seeking single parents in Virginia.

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Let's hope the property sells and once again becomes a viable place of higher learning. Even if can't remain a HBCU, it's set up to be used as a college and should continue in that use.


I am still really saddened by the closing of St.Pauls College. It was my desire to attend and graduate from this university. I truly hope that somehow, someway this prestigious university will reopen and the powers that be will respect the school by honoring this historic institution of higher learning. It's really sad that it had to come to this.


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