Notre Dame de Namur University plans to sell its Belmont campus to Stanford University following an agreement between the two to work toward a purchase arrangement, benefiting both in the long term.
“This agreement between NDNU and Stanford gives NDNU the flexibility to grow again in new and exciting ways,” NDNU President Beth Martin said in a press release. “We will be able to continue the programs for which we are so well known, and to add new programs directly targeted to changing student needs, including a mix of in-person, hybrid, and fully online programs.”
The Catholic, nonprofit university based in Belmont announced the decision Tuesday afternoon. It decided to sell because it was confident that a sale to a compatible organization would lead to long-term sustainability. The signed agreement announced Tuesday is an exclusive option for Stanford to purchase the NDNU campus for the duration of the agreement, which lasts until June 15, 2025, said Melissa McAlexander, special assistant to the president. NDNU course offerings are not expected to be affected, with normal operations to continue until the sale is complete. Once the sale happens, NDNU will be able to lease back space on campus for its operations, with both universities remaining independent. The site totals 46.3 acres and 24 buildings, with more than 320,000 square feet of office and classrooms.
NDNU officials in previous years had floated the possibility of permanent closure of the school due to enrollment and financial challenges, with uncertainty about its future. However, the NDNU Board of Trustees in January approved operating beyond the spring semester of 2021 and transitioning from an undergraduate school into a primarily graduate institution, offering master’s degree programs in business, clinical psychology and education, in addition to teaching credentials. The transition also was a part of the school’s decision to sell its campus. NDNU was established in 1851 and is the third oldest college in California.
Stanford said the agreement would help support its educational mission and long-range vision. It said an important consideration in trying to buy the property was its existing use as a residential academic campus and its location on the Peninsula to public transit and Stanford’s existing and Redwood City campuses. The school noted a Stanford campus in Belmont could provide needed space for programs and lead to more continuing studies courses for Bay Area residents.
“While we do not anticipate moving existing teaching and research activities off of the main campus, adding a campus in Belmont will provide us with additional space and facilities to enhance those activities through more regionally-focused work,” Stanford Provost Persis Drell said in a press release.
Stanford will develop a plan for the campus with help from stakeholders at Stanford, NDNU, Belmont and local residents. The process is expected to take several years and would require Stanford to submit applications for site improvements that require city approval.
“Stanford is committed to engaging all stakeholders throughout the process of planning for the Belmont campus’ future,” Joel Berman, Stanford Community Engagement Communications director, said by email. “We hope to begin engaging with local residents and other stakeholders over the coming weeks. We welcome the opportunity to hear from the community as we work toward reimagining this beautiful campus.”
He noted Stanford and NDNU began discussions about a purchase agreement during late summer 2020.
As for the future of NDNU, the university expects to offer new class options for in-person, hybrid and online in the coming years. The business school in 2022 will launch a tech track geared toward training MBA students to work and manage tech workers. The business school also is looking at an MBA STEM option due to the enormous demand for managers who can work in biotech. The business school is planning a degree completion program for students who have finished an associate’s degree and want to major in business. NDNU also entered into a partnership with Dominican University of California to move its Art Therapy program to Dominican. NDNU is still offering online class options for students during the pandemic.
Belmont Mayor Charles Stone was thrilled Belmont would potentially keep NDNU long term and bring some form of northern Stanford Campus to the city.
“I am extraordinarily happy that this ensures the continuation of NDNU. If this deal goes through, it will ensure NDNU continues to exist to offer degree completion and post-grad work. NDNU is an incredibly important part of Belmont and its history,” Stone said.
He noted Stanford would be reaching out to Belmont and its residents about the vision for the campus, although it would probably take a couple of years before a final plan was decided.
“I’m keeping a super open mind. It’s early in the process. I’m not sure what their vision is yet,” Stone said.
While there might be a more extensive presence in the area, he believes the site can handle the project. There are plans for a roundabout near the entrance of NDNU, and the Ralston Avenue corridor is a key area for future housing development and public transit, with a Caltrain station nearby.
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