Property owned by the now-defunct Burlington College is up for auction next week.
Thomas Hirchak Co., will sell the large brick facility and six acres located at 351 North Avenue in Burlington on Wednesday. The property is part of a larger planned condo development on Lake Champlain.
Burlington College occupied a portion of the former orphanage run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington until May 2016 when the school folded under what administrators described as a “crushing weight of debt.”
Known as Unit #2, the facility is 29,500-plus square feet and is listed as a potential condo project, according to auction documents. The on-site auction will take place at 10 a.m. July 12.
Terry Owen, Thomas Hirchak Company’s senior vice president, says that there is no minimum bid. Per the judgement and order of foreclosure the property sells to the highest bidder.
“All judicial foreclosures provide that the mortgage holder has the right to bid and must bid if they wish to protect their interest in the property,” Owen wrote in an email.
Eric Farrell, the developer who purchased 27.5 acres of the college property in February 2015, is waiting in the wings to purchase Unit #2 and the six acre parcel.
Farrell has proposed building an $80 million project on the property that includes 733 units of housing, 40,000 square feet of commercial space and 1,100 parking spaces. The Burlington City Council unanimously approved two zoning changes last fall that allow Farrell to proceed with the development, which he has dubbed “Cambrian Rise.” He is seeking an Act 250 permit, for which a hearing has been scheduled next Monday. He plans to break ground on the first building this fall.
While Farrell won’t say if he’ll place a bid at the auction, the former Burlington College property is part of his development plans for Cambrian Rise. Farrell plans to turn Unit #2 into a mixed-use building.
“The auction is next Wednesday, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
It’s possible that People’s could bid to protect the bank’s interests if the bids are too low, in which case, Farrell says he would most likely purchase the property directly from bank this fall. He does not know if there are other interested buyers.
Farrell declined to estimate the cost of purchasing the property.
“That’s not something I would really discuss openly in public,” Farrell said. “We’ll just see how it all plays out.”
Auction information documents posted to the Thomas Hirchak Company website show the property is currently assessed at just over $2.6 million.
The foreclosure auction is an attempt for People’s United Bank, the college’s main creditor, to recapture part of a nearly $7 million loan that helped finance the purchase of the North Avenue campus in 2011.
Burlington College owed People’s United Bank approximately $3.7 million, as of July 2016. Calls to multiple representatives from the bank seeking comment on Friday were not returned.
In December, Hirchak Company sold the contents of the college building. More than 600 items, including furniture, electronics, video equipment and computers were sold. Owen would not say how much the college made on the sale, citing privacy concerns.
Burlington College Board Chair Yves Bradley told VTDigger in November that the proceeds from sale of the remaining property and auctions are unlikely to cover the college’s debt to People’s.