August 21, 2018; Tennessean
No, not that Heritage Foundation, the ultra-conservative Washington DC think tank with assets of $240 million. This one was established three years earlier in 1970 and has assets of almost $11 million. (A word to the wise for anyone starting a new nonprofit: Avoid that word. GuideStar lists over 11,000 organizations with “Heritage” in their name.)
The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County, located south of Nashville in Tennessee, protects and preserves local historic resources. The Foundation is planning to purchase the campus of the O’More College of Design, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The main building on the campus is the Abbey Leix Mansion, built in the 1870s following the Civil War. O’More College of Design, a nonprofit four-year school, was only nine years old when it moved to the site in 1979. The property was appraised in 2016 for $4.78 million, according to the Williamson County’s property assessor, Brad Coleman.
O’More is merging with nonprofit Belmont University, a Christian Liberal Arts and Professional school in Nashville. Smaller colleges face an uphill battle for students, and Belmont was happy to take on O’More.
The college landscape is difficult, said Christopher Loss, a Vanderbilt professor and expert in the social, political and policy history of higher education.
“I think it is a combination of pretty fierce competition for students and the rising costs of operating a university,” Loss said. “It has made it harder for small, independent colleges to stay afloat.”
This is a merging of assets, not a purchase. O’More vacated the building at the end of the semester in May, and Belmont announced at that time it would sell the campus and use the funds for the merger transition and an endowed scholarship.
David Garrett, the board president for the Heritage Foundation, said they will purchase the property for about $6 million, the largest purchase to date for the preservation group.
“This is an exciting day,” Belmont University President Bob Fisher said. ”We are hopeful that we can celebrate the closing of this purchase in the near future, as it represents optimal preservation of this property. Clearly, we are excited about the vision the Heritage Foundation has and the ways in which it continues the history, traditions and educational legacy of this property.”
Bari Beasley, the CEO of Heritage, explained that with the plan for the property occurring in three phases, the first step is to raise the dollars to buy the historic site. Heritage did not provide a timeline, but a $6 million capital campaign will keep them busy.—Marian Conway