Clarksville, TN – Austin Peay State University, which turns 90 next year, recently experienced a late growth spurt. Earlier this week, the campus grew by about 10 acres when the school finally closed on property previously owned by the Jenkins and Wynne auto dealership.
The $8.8 million purchase marks one of the largest expansions in the University’s history, and it now connects the 182-acre College Street campus with downtown Clarksville.“This is a once in a lifetime acquisition opportunity for this institution,” Mitch Robinson, APSU vice president of finance and administration, said. “These are very exciting times.”
In 2013, Don Jenkins, CEO of Jenkins and Wynne Ford-Lincoln-Honda, announced he was relocating his dealership to 2655 Trenton Road, near the 101st Airborne Division Parkway. He quickly received several generous offers for his property on College Street. Individuals from across the country proposed putting luxury condos or retail space on that site, but Jenkins wanted Austin Peay to have the right of first refusal to purchase the land adjacent to campus.
“I think Austin Peay has always been a jewel for Clarksville, and every city would love to have a university like Austin Peay to attract students,” he said. “Part of having property in downtown is being a good steward of what you have, and the best use for the property would be for Austin Peay to have it. I want the best thing for Austin Peay and for downtown Clarksville, and this just happened to be the best for both of them.”
Jenkins has long worked to be a good neighbor and supporter of APSU. He has served on the Circle of Advisers for the University’s last three presidents, and he has made cosmetic changes to his property to better match the campus. Jenkins has also avoided buying downtown property the University needed, and he has swapped several parcels he owned around campus for land APSU owned in other areas.
“Austin Peay is landlocked, which has limited our ability to grow,” Dr. Alisa White, APSU president, said. “I am so appreciative of Don Jenkins and the Jenkins family for providing us with this opportunity to purchase the Jenkins and Wynne property so that we can serve more students and connect with the heart of our community, downtown Clarksville.”
Austin Peay now owns the Jenkins and Wynne property, but it will be a few months before the University takes possession of it. Jenkins is still in the process of moving his dealerships, and once that is complete, he will clean the site and remove the large signs towering above College Street. Robinson said he hopes APSU can begin renovation work on the new property this spring.
Austin Peay hired the Nashville-based firm Tuck Hinton Architects to create a vision for how the new property might be developed. The University will present that vision, which will include graphic renderings, at 11:30am on February 10th in the Morgan University Center ballroom. The public is invited to attend this event.
Some potential ideas for the property include creating a small green-space corridor between College Street and the new buildings, and turning one of the facilities into a gallery for APSU’s folk art collection. The collection includes 42 folk art carvings, paintings and drawings donated by Ned and Jacqueline Crouch and several sculptures by William Edmondson, the first African-American to have a solo show of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1937. Dr. Joe Trahern donated the sculptures.
The folk art collection was originally going to be housed in a building APSU owns in Strawberry Alley. That building is for sale, and money set aside for renovations to the Strawberry Alley facility will now be used to make cosmetic renovations to the Honda Dealership building, Robinson said. Once the Strawberry Alley building is sold, the proceeds will pay for minimal renovations to the new site.
“The faculty are really pleased about the acquisition of this property for two principal reasons,” Dr. Tim Winters, APSU professor and faculty senate president, said. “One, it will free up some space in academic buildings, and two, it will add some much-needed parking. I think it will also help to create a stronger bridge between the campus and the downtown business community.”
The purchase fits in with APSU’s new strategic plan, which seeks to increase the number of out-of-state, graduate and international students. Programs such as 250R, which provides discounted out-of-state tuition rates for students living within a 250-mile radius of the University, and APSU’s expanding degree programs, which will attract a new market of potential students, are elements of this strategic plan.
“We expect to grow quite significantly over the next five to 10 years,” Derek van der Merwe, APSU vice president of Advancement, Communication and Strategic Initiatives, said. “The Jenkins and Wynne property provides us with the added space we’ll need to serve these students and support our vision to be partners in the growth of the city of Clarksville.”
“Whatever this land will allow Austin Peay to do, as far as our growth, that’s priority number one,” Robinson said. “Number two is what we can do together with people downtown to expand the area and encourage increased development in the downtown district.”
For more information on APSU’s vision for this property, please attend the 11:30am presentation on February 10th in the Morgan University Center ballroom.