VOL. 123 | NO. 152 | Tuesday, August 5, 2008
College of Art Buys Area Homes
By Eric Smith
Renowned for training artists at its Overton Park campus, the Memphis College of Art recently has shown a flair for acquiring properties that will aid in its mission.
The college has spent $1.4 million on five Midtown single-family and multifamily properties in the past few months, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com, quickly giving MCA more space – about 16,000 square feet – and more flexibility for its growing housing needs.
“We’re becoming quite the real estate mogul,” MCA public relations director Michelle Byrd said last week with a laugh. “It gives us more room to put staff or faculty or visiting artists that are going to be here for a semester or part of the year.”
MCA in May bought a 1,340-square-foot home that sits on 0.16 acres at 157 N. Rembert St. for $130,000, followed by the acquisition of four more properties in July.
Last month it spent $175,000 for the 2,040-square-foot home that sits on 0.17 acres at 148 N. Tucker St.; $187,000 for the 2,232-square-foot home that sits on 0.17 acres at 156 N. Tucker; $285,000 for the 3,448-square-foot four-plex that sits on 0.17 acres at 150 N. Tucker; and $650,000 for the 6,846-square-foot nine-plex that sits on 0.34 acres at 124 N. Tucker.
The Shelby County Assessor of Property’s 2008 combined appraisals for the five properties, all of which are close to campus, is $724,000. The college financed three of the purchases with a series of loans totaling almost $1 million.
MCA is a “professional center of art and design education, dedicated to preparing individuals for lives of creating, problem solving and critical thinking,” according to its Web site.
The college, which enrolls art students in a variety of degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels, has seen its numbers climb steadily. MCA expects to have about 30 more students than last year, for a total enrollment of almost 400, hence the need for more rooms to house them all.
The college has a fairly new masters in education program, Byrd said, which is bringing even more people to campus who don’t count as full-time students.
“Our enrollment is up and we’ve experienced an increased demand for student housing,” Byrd said. “We’ve converted most of them into dorm rooms, so that way the students can have access to security and the shuttle service that goes from Overton Park to the housing. They get cable and Internet, and they get to sign a nine-month lease instead of having to do a whole year lease.”
Byrd said renovations to the new properties ranging from minor to major are under way, with plans to have all the homes and apartments filled this semester, which begins Aug. 25.
“They are in differing degrees of habitation,” she said. “We have facilities and maintenance people over there. Some of them need a lot of work, and some just need a fresh coat of paint and a good cleaning and then they’re ready to go.”
On the horizon
The need for more housing is a good problem to have, Byrd said. The dorms fill up as soon as the college builds them, including Metz Hall, a state-of-the-art residence that opened in 2004.
“We would love to have another one of those at some point,” Byrd said.
Until then, the acquisition of nearby homes and apartment complexes will suffice. The college already has some properties that it uses for student housing, including its Overton House, At-the-Park and Parkside residences. Those apartment-style residences begin at $1,800 per semester, which is what the new units will run.
One thing the Midtown homes bring is a little variety to student and staff housing, something that’s been welcome for the students and staff inhabiting the spaces.
“This gives them a little bit more autonomy and a little bit more freedom than they would get elsewhere,” Byrd said.
And with the availability and affordability in today’s market, it makes sense for an organization to take a fresh approach to its housing needs. More purchases could even be on the way, Byrd said.
“We’re always looking,” she said “The way the real estate market is now, it seems like a good time to buy.”