Flagler buying railway buildings

Major purchase likely means increase in college tuition

By Richard Harris
Photo by Glenn Judah

PHOTO CAPTION: Flagler College recently acquired the FECI buildings at One Malaga St. The buildings will most likely become classrooms to take the strain off Kenan Hall.

Flagler College has reached a deal to purchase Florida East Coast Industries’ (FECI) 64,000-square-foot headquarters at the corner of King and Malaga Streets.

The final price tag — 60 percent of the cost of the three four-story buildings — is not being disclosed, said Flagler President William T. Abare, Jr., who added FECI was donating the other 40 percent of the cost.

With a closing date of Nov. 1, the college has already made a substantial deposit of $1.7 million. However, the remaining difference could mean debt for the college.

“We are currently in the process of looking at financing alternatives, including cash, a traditional loan, and tax exempt, low interest bonds,” Abare said.

Even with the recent deal, the college plans to continue its talks with U.S. Postal Service officials about acquiring Post Office property on the corner of King Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

“If that opportunity presents itself, we will take advantage of that opportunity as well,” Abare said. “The fact that we have acquired the Florida East Coast Railway building has nothing to do with that project and that acquisition.”

However, Abare says tuition will most likely be affected by the FECI purchase. “But it was going to have to go up no matter what,” he said.

With additional campus projects like the construction of the student center as well as operational costs of the new buildings, the increase is inevitable. Also affecting tuition costs are the Art Building renovation project and the cost associated with the college’s NCAA commitment. Abare could not place a price tag on the increase yet.

Abare said despite the costs, the opportunity was one that the college could not pass up in terms of its future, especially with the building’s close proximity to the $100 million San Sebastian Inland Harbor Project.

“It’s just a great opportunity and there wasn’t a whole lot of debate about whether or not we should purchase it,” he said. “The question was that once we purchased it, then how best to use it.”

Abare hopes to take weight off of Kenan Hall by creating classrooms. The departments and classes picked for the move would be selected to keep majors together.

Abare points to parking as a convenience. The sale of the building also includes a parking lot the college already leases from FECI.

“It would be absolutely ideal for a parking garage,” Abare said. “The question is, one, could we get permission from the city to build it, and two, we’re going to be pretty well tapped out as to what we can borrow.”

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