Cotter Schools buys West Campus dorms for $5 million

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Carolyn Hauschild

Winona State University’s Vice President of Finance and Administration, Scott Ellinghuysen, said the school was pleased with Cotter purchasing the property. Ellinghuysen said Cotter’s purchase assured Winona State the buildings would be “put to good use.”

Olivia Prondzinski, news reporter

Cotter Schools announced on March 17, 2022, their plans to buy two properties from Winona State University, previously known as the university’s West Campus. The two properties consisted of the former residence halls Maria Hall and the Tau Center.

The $5-million sale was due to Winona State’s Comprehensive Campus Master Plan, a plan which included a goal of centralizing and minimizing transportation for students. The five-million-dollar price tag on the buildings was based on an appraisal of the current property value.

“When students come to schools like Winona State University, you don’t expect to take a shuttle to class, so the ultimate goal is was to not have a campus divided into two locations,” explained Director of Housing and Residence Life Paula Scheevel.

James Goblirsch, assistant vice president for facilities management, said there was one other buyer interested in the West Campus properties before Cotter.

“We did not have a need for the buildings anymore so it’s good that we have a local entity that is interested in utilizing the property,” Goblirsch said.

The buildings will be officially handed over to Cotter on May 13 after the current spring semester.

Cotter Schools announced on March 17, 2022, their plans to buy two West Campus properties from Winona State University. The two properties consisted of the former residence halls, Maria Hall and the Tau Center, while Lourdes Hall remains on the market for now.
Cotter Schools announced on March 17, 2022, their plans to buy two West Campus properties from Winona State University. The two properties consisted of the former residence halls, Maria Hall and the Tau Center, while Lourdes Hall remains on the market for now. (Carolyn Hauschild)

Cotter’s official plans for the newly acquired buildings are not confirmed yet, but their goals are similar to Winona State–to bring their students together on one campus.

“It is a unique opportunity for Cotter at this point in time, especially as we look to our overall site plan,” explained Cotter President Mary Eileen Fitch.

Cotter was able to obtain the funds to purchase the properties through several donors.

With the institution’s new elementary school, Cotter needs not only more space for students, but also extra room for transportation, green space and a playground.

“As our enrollment continues to grow, we need more space, and the acquisition of these properties allows us to really look for that site plan,” Fitch said.

Winona State decided it was time to sell the buildings due to deferred maintenance.

“You reach a point where you decide, is it better to build a new building or to continue to renovate an old building,” Scheevel said. “What we’re looking for is a newer, more attractive style of housing that’s available for students.”

The Winona State University Foundation, a financial group focused on the advancement and fundraising services for the university, is currently in the process purchasing new property and designing a new residence hall.

Winona State’s Vice President of Finance and Administration, Scott Ellinghuysen, said the university was pleased with Cotter purchasing the property.

“You want it to be in good hands; you want it to be put to good use, and I don’t think there’s any question that the Cotter folks will do right by the land and the property,” Ellinghuysen said.

Scott Olson, Winona State’s president, said in a press release, “the West Campus has been a great addition to WSU for close to 30 years, but today’s students are telling us they want a different style of living and learning environments, such as the ability to walk to classes, the library, concerts, competitions and events.”

Cotter Schools is in the process of examining whether the buildings will be renovated or remodeled. The third West Campus building, Lourdes Hall, remains on the market.