Sep 11, 2007

Land of Liberty: School gains Plaza shopping center

by Jenni Thurman, Editor In Chief

An Arizona-based real estate company will donate The Plaza shopping center to Liberty, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. announced in convocation Friday.


The deal will enable Liberty to move various offices to The Plaza, freeing up much-needed space on Campus North.


Falwell Jr.’s announcement was met with unenthusiastic clapping from the students until he said, “That means more parking available on this campus.” Then the applause became deafening.


The land will be donated by Sandor Development Co. of Scottsdale, Ariz. and includes 467,000 square feet of buildings on the 42-acre site off Memorial Avenue by E.C. Glass High School.


“It’s a fantastic announcement, it’s wonderful news and it’s further evidence that God is continuing to bless this university in major ways, and we just are very grateful to Sandor Development Co.,” Falwell Jr. said in convocation.


Liberty hopes to close the deal with Sandor on Sept. 30. The university will then acquire all the properties in The Plaza, which includes McDonald’s and the Carmike movie theater. Liberty will honor all the leases with the businesses, which will now pay rent to the university, said Falwell Jr. in an e-mail correspondence.


The donation was the third major land gift to Liberty in less than five years. Last month Sherwin Cook donated over $2 million worth of residential real estate and in 2004 Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby contributed the Ericcson plant, which has since become Campus North.


However, the university quickly filled the 888,000 square feet available in the Ericsson building.


The Plaza will help solve space problems, Falwell Jr. said. “It will allow us to move many back office functions off campus, freeing up space for classrooms and improving the traffic and parking problems.”


The old Rose’s building across from the Carmike movie theater is ideal to house 100 to 200 employees who work in the Distance Learning Program (DLP). The presence of the DLP employees would also aid in the revitalization of the area surrounding The Plaza, which used to be the mecca of Lynchburg retail before the development of Wards Road and Candler’s Mountain Road, Falwell Jr. said.


Liberty began negotiating the land deal with Sandor in the spring, but the arrangements were never finalized. Falwell Jr. received an e-mail from Sandor on May 14, the day before Dr. Jerry Falwell passed away, confirming that the deal would take place.


Falwell Jr. forwarded the e-mail to Dr. Falwell, who called and said, “Well, that’s just awesome.”


Falwell Jr. continued to talk to his father about Liberty’s growth and several exciting projects that were in the works. Falwell Jr. told his father, “You know, you just need to take care of yourself so you’ll be here to see all of this,” Dr. Falwell replied, “I really do, don’t I?”
“That was the last conversation we had,” Falwell Jr. said.


“It is heartwarming to see this gift that was important to my father come to fruition several months after his death. I am sure he is smiling in heaven as he watches all this unfold.”

Contact Jenni Thurman at jthurman@liberty.edu.


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