The University of Saint Francis will expand its presence downtown with the purchase of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce building at 826 Ewing St.
The exact purchase price is still being negotiated, but Chamber President and CEO Mike Landram said it will be lower than the last listing price of $760,000.
The building, which was built in 1928, will become the home of the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership bringing with it 300 to 500 students and their professors, said Sister M. Elise Kriss, the university's president.
She said the move would be "beneficial to the community and most importantly for our students." Housing the business school downtown will free up office and classroom space at the main campus. With growth the university is experiencing, it's outgrowing the main campus.
The university announced a record enrollment this fall of 2,366 students.
The chamber building is also close to another recent university acquisition, the former Scottish Rite Center now the USF Performing Arts Center where the university's Media Entrepreneurship Training in the Arts, META, program
Kriss said the businesses and nonprofit agencies will benefit from having students where they can "contribute to the economic development of downtown."
The building will be an investment for the university as it will require about $5 million in renovations to prepare for students and professors. Kriss said the university will purchase the building, but will need to raise the funds needed for improvements.
Mayor Tom Henry said he's "grateful to the University of Saint Francis for taking the bold step" of moving downtown.
Landram said he never thought he would be announcing that the search for a buyer was over.
"I couldn't think of a better buyer," he said. "I can't wait to see the finished product."
Mac Parker is the president of the Chamber Foundation, the entity that actually owns the building, and he said turning the 84-year-old building into a business school gives it new life.
"It's a perfect second career for this historic building," Parker said.
Landram said the Chamber has not secured a different location, but will remain in the building until the spring of 2013 during the search.