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A focus on preservation after Johnson & Wales University closes in Denver

The roughly 25-acre piece of land was sold with retaining history in mind
Johnson & Wales University
Posted at 8:16 AM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 15:14:30-04

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DENVER — Johnson & Wales University is no more in Denver. The university is going in a different strategic direction. Last summer, the university announced it would cease operations in Denver after the 2020-21 school year and Urban Land Conservancy, Denver Public Schools and the Denver Housing Authority recently purchased the land.

The university will continue operations in Providence, R.I.

The 25-acre site has 13 buildings. Its history dates back 100 years when it was the Colorado Women's College. It became JWU 20 years ago.

University alum Cody Dunston was surprised when he heard the news of the closure.

"Your first thought is if it’s going to get torn down or if it’s going to be apartments," Dunston said. "It would be nice to see if they could see a lot of the history that’s with this place."

It looks like that is exactly what happened.

"We’re looking at this as really a preservation," said Urban Land Conservancy CEO Aaron Maripol. "This isn’t about a redevelopment."

With the completion of this transaction, DPS owns the west side of the campus and plans to expand Denver School of the Arts (DSA) and to utilize the campus as a community arts hub. The expansion will allow DSA to accept 500 to 700 additional students over time, focusing on equity and inclusion of low-income students and students of color. The west campus includes the Wildcat Center, Whatley Chapel, Academic Center, and Aspen Hall.

DHA purchased the south portion of the campus, which includes Triangolo Hall and Gaebe Hall and two former dormitory buildings, with the goal of expanding affordable housing opportunities in the community.

ULC is the new owner of the east side of the campus and holds the land in a 99-year ground lease, which preserves its affordability and commitment to community-serving uses in perpetuity.

This is a direction former Denver JWU President Rich Wiscott had always hoped for.

"They shared many of the same values we have," Wiscott explained. "We knew they would be the perfect stewards of the campus as the campus enters this next phase."