Transylvania University has plans to buy at least two parcels of land on West Fourth Street for new athletics fields, part of an ambitious plan by President Owen Williams to expand the school's presence downtown.
Norwood Cowgill, a member of Transylvania's Board of Trustees, confirmed Tuesday that he has been involved in purchasing the two tracts, 551 and 555 Fourth Street, for the school. The deal is under contract but not yet finalized, he said.
Transy has added men's and women's lacrosse teams this year and has long been hampered by a lack of playing fields for athletes.
"The university needs more space to grow in," said Cowgill, the CEO of Office Suites Plus. "So we're looking at buying property that's close to the university. We're getting a lacrosse team, and it sure would be nice to have a field for them."
The two tracts are currently owned by Achbro LLC, which was organized by Christian and Michael Ach, according to the Kentucky secretary of state's office. The Achs own ABR Construction, which is located at 555 West Fourth Street. Neither of the Achs returned calls for comment Tuesday. Much of the property is undeveloped.
The two tracts are bordered by a railroad and Eastern State Hospital on one side, and the Florence Crittenden Home on the other. Eastern State Hospital's campus is the future home of Bluegrass Community and Technical College, which is already starting construction there.
Cowgill said the school would like to buy the Florence Crittenden Home, but "we're far away from making any deal."
"Basically, the deal will clean up that end of town," Cowgill said. "Transy has a history of trying to improve the neighborhoods it's in."
Seth Brewer, immediate past president of the Northside Neighborhood Association, where the issue was recently discussed, agrees.
"I'm very enthusiastic because what's been there is industrial-zoned property sitting vacant for years," he said. "That's the definition of urban decay."
Jefferson Street between Short Street and Third Street is undergoing a renaissance, but it's been stymied by the north end of Jefferson, Brewer said. That will change because of this purchase and because of Sixth Street Brewing, which recently bought the old Rainbo bakery building at the corner of Sixth Street and Jefferson.
"If there are fields there and people playing, it will contribute to activity and open the view westward," he said. "It will open the area up and encourage more redevelopment and appreciation for the old houses on Jefferson."