Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. has handed over a historic Massachusetts college campus to the nonprofit National Christian Foundation after the company's initial attempt to donate the property to a religious university failed.
Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based operator of arts and crafts stores, decided that the foundation would be better able to find a recipient of the 217-acre campus in Northfield, Mass., said Les Miller, a real estate analyst for Hobby Lobby.
The company has made charitable donations to the National Christian Foundation in the past.
“We had hoped to be able to find a qualified recipient of this property ourselves and made great efforts to do so. When we were unable, we decided to enlist the help of NCF, an organization with which we have had a long, successful relationship,” Mille said. “We are confident they will be able to find a long-term owner for this property.”
The Georgia-based National Christian Foundation, which bills itself as the largest Christian grant-making foundation in the United States, took control of the Northfield campus on Dec. 28, Hobby Lobby announced Wednesday.
“We have great faith and confidence in the National Christian Foundation and their ability to be responsible stewards of this campus, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for this historic property and wonderful community,” Jerry Pattengale, executive director for the Hobby Lobby-sponsored Green Scholars Institute, said in a statement.
Before taking on responsibility for the campus, the National Christian Foundation considered the costs involved in maintaining the campus until a more permanent owner can be found, said Steve Chapman, vice president of communications for the foundation.
“We looked at every variable,” Chapman said.
NCF hopes to find a suitable recipient for the campus within a year, he said.
Hobby Lobby purchased the campus in 2009 for $100,000 and poured millions of dollars into the property for renovations. The company has said the campus is worth about $20 million.
The campus was built by influential 19th Century evangelist D.L. Moody in 1879 and was formerly the home of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, which moved to consolidate its presence in the area in 2005.
Hobby Lobby first had plans to gift the property to the C.S. Lewis Foundation for the founding of C.S. Lewis College, but plans for the school never moved forward. After engaging in a national search, Hobby Lobby announced in September that it had selected Arizona-based Grand Canyon University as the new recipient of the 217-acre campus.
Grand Canyon University backed out of taking over the campus just five weeks later, after receiving negative feedback from Northfield, Mass., residents on its plans to bring 5,000 Christian college students to the area.