By Maria Polletta for The Arizona Republic
Two months after Chicago-based Saint Xavier University announced plans to shutter its fledgling downtown Gilbert campus, school and town officials have confirmed they’re jointly working to land a replacement.
It’s in both parties’ best interest to succeed quickly: Getting a rent-paying school in place by Jan. 1 would allow Gilbert to begin recouping some of the $37M it invested in the campus. Meeting that same deadline would help Saint Xavier avoid formally breaching its contract with the town — and potentially paying hundreds of thousand dollars in damages.
Saint Xavier opened its Heritage District facility in August 2015, with Gilbert officials lauding its potential as an economic-development partner and transformative force for downtown. The 87KSF, four-story campus — with programs in nursing, business and education — was expected to boost the town’s economy by about $282M over its first 10 years, generating about $113,000 in direct sales-tax revenue for Gilbert during the same period.
But less than a year later, in June, Saint Xavier announced plans to close the branch campus after fall 2016 classes. Officials at the time said “the distressed state of higher-education funding allocated to college students enrolled in Illinois, the increased cost of educating a diverse student population and small initial enrollments on the Gilbert campus” had left the school “particularly vulnerable.”
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