By SARAH SMITH
The UMW Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that coordinates donations to support the University, received the Fredericksburg City Council’s unanimous approval on Oct. 14 to convert its newly acquired house at 1512 William St. into office space.
The Foundation needed specific approval by the City Council to change the function of residential property into business space. According to Foundation CEO Jeff Rountree, the Foundation’s property is tax exempt under state law.
Therefore, any land acquisition by the Foundation detracts from the city’s tax revenue, so the advantages of the Foundation’s presence must outweigh this financial drawback.
The Foundation made the $400,000 purchase in April of this year for the purpose of moving from its current location in the Jepson Alumni Executive Center. Not only has the Foundation outgrown its space, but it also seeks an independent location, as it is not officially affiliated with the school.
The Foundation will finalize plans with the city before the renovation process takes place, beginning after January.
Additionally, the University wants to use land behind the baseball stadium for parking. The William Street property provides access to that land.
“That will be of great benefit to the local neighbors along Hanover Street who have asked UMW to help find ways to alleviate the parking problems in their neighborhood,” said Rountree. “That is clearly the benefit to the community in this case.”
Rountree reports no objections to the purchase from the surrounding community.
“Every single neighbor in that area signed a letter approving of the purchase and plan,” he said.
The estimated cost for the road and parking lot will be $750,000, though there is no current projected date for its completion.
The William Street purchase comes at a time of expansion for the University, as plans unfold for the Eagle Village that the school will develop in the current Park ‘n’ Shop location.
According to Vice President for Administration and Finance Rick Hurley, university purchased property creates a relevant issue in this development because it is taken off of the city’s tax revenue.
However, according to Teresa Mannix, director of News and Public Relations, the University will pay real estate tax on the property, despite its exemption.
Both Hurley and Mannix emphasized University’s need for growth, but also promoted the simultaneous importance of integrating it with the community’s needs.
“Not all of our expansion moves are met with large scale approval,” said Hurley. “We are sensitive to the concerns of the surrounding communities, and I do not believe we would expand into an area that we felt was going to be resisted by everyone in that particular area.”
The Eagle Village project is one that will benefit both the students and the community, according to Mannix.
As an already developed area, it will not detract from existing green space or encroach on neighborhoods, while still providing additional housing for students and retail space available to the community.
“I believe the benefit is a long term one, in that the more and better facilities we provide to meet the needs of our students and faculty, the better we are at attracting and retaining students,” Hurley said.
“This means that dollars will continue to flow into the city’s coffer as our students, their parents and the employees spend money in the area,” he added.
As for the concern that the school will continue to progress its expansion at a rapid rate, Hurley maintained that the focus will be on developing current projects.
“There is no need for the University to expand any further than it has at the moment,” Hurley said.