Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Washtenaw Community College's new Packard campus?

22. February 2009 • Murph
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Recently, Washtenaw Community College has been considering the acquisition of the Washtenaw Country Club, at Packard and Golfside. The club’s 122 acres, a little over a mile from WCC’s existing campus, would likely continue to be operated as a golf course for the near future, but WCC is more interested in the land for expansion of their academic programs:

To [WCC Trustee Richard] Landau, the offer to take over Washtenaw Country Club is a once-in-a-lifetime growth opportunity for the college to obtain a huge parcel of land at what he calls a “fire sale” price.

Although preliminary discussions call for WCC to continue operating the golf course for at least five years, Landau says that’s only an initial step to redeveloping the property for new academic initiatives – an expansion of the WCC culinary arts curriculum, possibly a new turf management program and future academic programs that no one can envision today.

The college would be assuming the golf course’s $1.9m debts and future operating costs in exchange for a parcel of land assessed at over $6 million.

While some see the move as a win for WCC even if it does not locate new campus facilities there, for the investment value of future real estate development alone, others have questioned whether the college should be making such an investment now: doubting both the wisdom of taking on the near term operating costs of the golf course and the idea of such a bold expansionist move in the current economy. A study of the existing campus has shown that facility space can be increased by 45% within the existing land.

  1. This seems like a pretty mixed opportunity. On the one hand, I’m not certain that WCC would be better served by adding that much space on a separate campus, rather than expanding within their existing campus (and perhaps overflowing into St. Joe’s campus).

    However, I do think that WCC is the area economy’s most under-recognized asset. At UMich’s recent forum, Michigan’s Economy in 2009 and Beyond , speaker Chris Hayter referenced community colleges as one of our most important educational attainment focuses (along with the typical crowdpleasers like early childhood ed), and I’d generally agree.

    While UMich gets all the attention in our “knowledge economy”-crazed outlook, it’s not an institution well oriented to teaching older or part-time “non-traditional” students or for students looking to jobs in skilled trades. There’s an enormous spread of jobs between “high school educated lifetime line worker” and “high-tech startup” that WCC is the best suited institution in the area for.

    So, regardless of whether WCC picks up the country club for a southern campus, I think Golfside Road is going to see some significant growth over the next decade as WCC expands to serve demand.

       —Murph    Feb. 22 '09 - 09:22PM    #
  2. Uh maybe. I don’t think significant growth is a given anywhere, and it’s just a deal that WCC should take a pass on now.

       —emilia    Feb. 23 '09 - 10:39PM    #