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Northfield shocked as GCU walks away from free campus

  • Corinne Burnham, owner of Rooster's Bistro
  • Sharon Parsons, manager of Northfield Food Mart

NORTHFIELD — The town was shocked to hear that Grand Canyon University will not move into the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus.

“This is devastating; I’m livid,” said Corinne Burnham, owner of Rooster’s Bistro. She’s owned the Main Street restaurant for nine years.

She opened Rooster’s when NMH still ran the campus, and said business took a nose-dive when the school left. Since then, she’s been holding out hope that someone would make use of the campus, bringing new life and economic stimulus to town.

“GCU was the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “For something like this to happen, the way it happened, is bull---t.”

Burnham said she received 256 emails from others about the campus, reacting to the news and wondering what’s to come.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Sharon Parsons, manager of the Northfield Food Mart and a 25-year resident. “I was looking forward to having some livelihood come into town.”

GCU was announced in September as the recipient of the 217-acre former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus, owned by the billionaire Green family of Oklahoma. The college planned to start classes in 2014 with about 500 students, and ramp up to a 5,000-student enrollment by 2018. Officials also said they would employ about 600 people by the time the campus reached its full enrollment.

Monday, GCU announced that it would not be coming to town after all.

“It’s a shame,” said Donna LaBombard, of Pine Street, out walking her dogs on the campus. “It’s a beautiful campus, it’s a shame it’s not being used.”

She said she wasn’t too concerned with the proposed size of the college, and thought it would do wonders for the area’s economy and job market.

GCU cited the town’s refusal to share $30 million in infrastructure upgrades as the chief reason for pulling out of the deal. However, GCU never asked town officials to help bear the costs. That didn’t stop the school from telling the Religion New Service, in a story that was picked up by the Washington Post, that the town was to blame.

“Something’s not right here,” said William Barnes, owner of the Northfield Food Mart.

“This was a shock to everybody,” he continued. “Everybody was making plans for what they were going to do when the college came in. The only thing we can hope for is that something will come in that the town can agree it wants.”

The comments made in the Religion News Service’s story could make that difficult as the Greens seek out a qualified recipient.

“We now look like we couldn’t be more un-welcoming,” said Burnham. “Who’s going to want to come onto the campus now?”

David Rainville can be reached at:

drainville@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

Related

GCU backs out of Northfield campus

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NORTHFIELD — Grand Canyon University has announced that it no longer plans to make Northfield its new home. Brian Mueller, GCU’s president and CEO, in a Religion News Service article, said GCU backed out because the town refused to help cover $30 million in infrastructure upgrades to help pave the way for the college, and that many in town were … 0

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