The University of Idaho received approval from the State Board of Education Thursday to sell a 75-acre parcel of land in Sandpoint that has gone unused for more than a decade. The property will be sold to developer Tim McDonnell for $4 million, according to board documents.
“The university is now in the position where we’re attempting to fund the strategic priorities of the campus,” UI Vice President for Finance and Administration Brian Foisy said. “To have an unutilized piece of property there is not really a fiscally prudent thing for us moving forward.”
The site on North Boyer Avenue, donated to UI in 1913, was once the home to the Sandpoint Research and Extension Center, which was shuttered by the school’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences years ago, Foisy said. Previously, UI had agreed to give the City of Sandpoint about two years to develop a plan to acquire the property, Foisy said, but at the end of that timeframe, the city reported it was unable to raise the necessary money.
Foisy said the UI had done two appraisals of the land in the past – one valuing the land at $2.8 million and the second coming in a little more than $5.1 million.
“The university had reached out to a commercial realtor and we were in the process of preparing to list the property when we literally received an email with the $4 million offer,” Foisy said. “We did the math and we can tell what folks did was just take the average of the two appraisals – which is what you would expect to have happen – so we believe it does represent the fair value of the property.”
Foisy said because the offer came before the property was placed on the market, UI avoids paying a costly commission to a real estate broker – potentially saving the school as much as 10 percent of the value of the land.
New UI President Scott Green said when the school purchased acreage in Jerome, Idaho, with plans to build the largest research dairy in the country, university officials announced plans to sell property in Caldwell and Sandpoint to help replenish reserves. He pointed out the UI still has a presence and commitment to the Sandpoint community through its Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center, which sits on 45 acres of land that was donated to the university last year.
When a board member asked if going to market would have brought in potentially higher bids, Green expressed scepticism, saying it is likely the school would lose the $4 million offer in exchange for much lower bids.
“That market is extremely thin – the number of folks who will come out to bid on that property, they haven’t been beating down our doors,” Green said, mentioning the buyer tried to haggle the price down from $4 million, but UI stood firm. “We do think that the savings in the commission is worth taking – just based on all that, we felt that this was the right decision both for the state and for the university.”