Denver Public Schools will buy four buildings from Johnson & Wales University’s Denver campus for $30 million.
The university, known for its culinary programs, is closing the Denver campus this summer. School officials said the Denver location was unable to increase enrollment and become self-sustaining.
The purchased buildings — the Wildcat Center, Academic Center, Aspen Hall and Whatley Chapel — will become part of the Denver School of the Arts, a public magnet school for middle and high schoolers. An outline from the Denver school board says the new buildings in South Park Hill will allow them to expand enrollment at DSA, particularly among students of color.
“This is an opportunity for our community to not only really think about being able to acquire some property, and not just the expansion of potential seats for DSA, but hopefully push us to have conversations across the district about including arts comprehensively in our schools,” school board vice president Jennifer Bacon said at a board meeting last week.
The school’s current enrollment is 1,110, which is above their “designed capacity of 900.” With the new buildings, DSA will be able to expand its middle school and high school by about 600 students total.
In addition to the initial purchasing price, DPS estimates an additional $5 to $10 million in renovations. They hope to fundraise a portion of the costs and use bonds to fund the remaining balance.
Johnson & Wales acquired the property of their Denver campus in 1999. The land once housed several universities, including the University of Denver Law School and the now-defunct Colorado Women’s College.