Samford University has completed the purchase of property adjacent to the campus that has served as the headquarters for Southern Progress Corp. The $58 million sale was finalized Dec. 31.
The 28-acre tract includes nearly 400,000-square-feet of space in three buildings and more than 1,000 parking spaces.
Samford will renovate two buildings to house its College of Health Sciences, which includes the schools of health professions, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Some CHS administrative offices will relocate to the new space in early February, but Samford will not move full operations and classes until sometime in 2016, according to Harry B. Brock III, Samford’s vice president for business and financial affairs.
Samford is developing long-term utilization needs for the space it will occupy, Brock noted. In addition to building renovations, Samford will develop access points from within the current campus to the new property. Those plans will be announced at a later date.
Under the purchase agreement, Time Inc., the parent company for Southern Progress, will have a long-term lease on one building to house its Birmingham operations, which include Southern Living and Cooking Light magazines. Time has until December 2016 to renovate that space and move its operations.
Brock said the main entrance to College of Health Sciences will be what is now the main entrance to the Southern Progress property on Lakeshore Drive. Once relocated, the entrance to Time Inc.’s building will be on Old Montgomery Highway.
Earlier in 2014, Samford purchased an office building and acreage at 600 University Park Place across Lakeshore Drive from the main campus. Similar to the acquisition of University Park Place, the long-term lease revenue for the building to be occupied by Time Inc. fits within the university’s long-term investment parameters for the endowment, Brock said. The buildings represent Class A office space and prime property in the Midtown real estate market.
Samford President Andrew Westmoreland praised Brock and the team of Samford administrators who negotiated the purchase with representatives of Time Inc. and the Birmingham commercial real estate firm Graham and Co.
“This purchase happened because of the extraordinary talents and efforts of several people at Samford who worked extra hours, including through the holidays,” Westmoreland said. “In particular, I’m grateful to Buck Brock and those who worked with him over the last several weeks and months to develop these plans.”
SPC purchased the then-undeveloped property from Samford in 1987 to relocate and consolidate its operations from other Birmingham locations. Time Inc. had announced plans early in 2014 to seek a buyer for the property that would allow Southern Progress to remain in Birmingham.
In a November message to SPC employees announcing the purchase agreement, Evelyn Webster, Time Inc. executive vice president, said, “As you know, we've been working diligently to both find a way to utilize our vacant space and to create state-of-the-art facilities for the Southern Progress operation. Today's announcement accomplishes this objective and also allows us to partner with and support Samford University in their focus on delivering high quality education to its students.”
Westmoreland emphasized the importance of the purchase to Samford’s long-range physical plant and academic needs.
“The moving of several programs currently housed in existing buildings on the current campus will enable us to address critical space requirements for many of our growing academic programs and to accommodate the addition of new areas of study,” Westmoreland said. “We are now afforded a rare opportunity to develop plans that will influence Samford in ways that stretch far beyond our lifetimes, so extraordinary wisdom will be required to guide our steps.”
He added that the move also ensures adequate space for the anticipated growth in the College of Health Sciences as all those academic programs are brought under “one roof.”