The day after the University mailed letters to Westmoreland tenants saying there were no sale offers for the family housing complex, it announced an agreement to sell the property to a Eugene developer.
On Wednesday, the University announced that Michael O’Connell, the owner of a commercial and investment real estate business, agreed to purchase the 404-unit family housing complex for $18.45 million. The sale will net the University an $18 million profit, and Bell Real Estate is slated to eventually assume management of Westmoreland. O’Connell also agreed to allow current tenants to remain in the complex until June 2007, and the University has offered financial aid to subsidize any rent increase, according to a University press release.
The sale process isn’t final yet because the Oregon State Board of Higher Education must vote to approve the sale during its July meeting. The Oregon University System will hold two community feedback hearings in Eugene before the end of spring term on June 5 and 13.
The University received the offer late Tuesday and signed the deal Wednesday, said Frances Dyke, vice president for finance and administration. She said the letter, which tenants won’t receive until after Thursday, sent to Westmoreland tenants saying that there haven’t been any offers was accurate at the time of its mailing.
University President Dave Frohnmayer announced the sale during his State of the University speech at the start of the University Senate meeting Wednesday afternoon, and the announcement was greeted with hisses and boos from faculty and the students who came to view the passage of the University’s diversity plan.
University Senator Jon Jablonski proposed a resolution at the end of the meeting to oppose the sale. The resolution was a replica of a previous resolution passed against the sale in a January senate meeting that included recommendations for how the administration should proceed with the sale, but Wednesday’s resolution omitted all items except the Senate’s opposition.
“There’s still a compelling need for Westmoreland,” Jablonski said of the complex, which sits roughly three miles west of campus. “I’ve had students come up to me and say, ‘I don’t want to live on campus. I don’t want to live on campus. The roving packs of drunken white students make me feel unsafe.'”
Jablonski’s comment evoked cheers from the students.
“Without campus-owned University housing,” he said, “we’re going to lose a certain amount of diversity and we’re going to lose a certain amount of excellence.”
Unlike the first time when the resolution passed unanimously, the Senate was split. Wednesday’s resolution marked the first time this year University Senate President Peter Keyes was called upon to cast a vote to break the 14 -14 tie among senators. Keyes voted in favor of the resolution to oppose the sale.
“I’ve cared deeply about the Westmoreland issue all year,” Keyes said. This was the last University Senate meeting this year, and the last time Keyes will serve as president.
“It’s going out with a bang,” he said. “It’s more symbolic than anything.”
Keyes said he feels less anxious about the sale than he had in the past.
“(There are) assurances that the buyer is intending to keep it as housing, and the students who are living there can stay for at least a year,” he said. “In the practical standpoint I feel much less concerned than I felt before.”
Keyes said he doesn’t think the University has made a strong case for why it shouldn’t keep Westmoreland as an asset.
Frohnmayer said he thought the division in the Senate showed senators needed more information about the sale.
“I think it’s premature to judge until people have had a chance to assess it,” he said. “This is very good for our students and very good for our future.”
Bing Li, a University graduate student and the chairwoman of the Westmoreland Tenants Council, said the University’s move to sell the complex is “unforgivable.”
“I’m sad, and I’m also angry. Not only am I myself angry, so are those students and faculty who care about Westmoreland,” she said.
“It’s like home,” she said through tears. “We are a place for families. … Everyone can tell how much we’ve put on this to save Westmoreland.”